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Workfare Participants Get Grievance Rights

October 02, 1998

Welfare recipients in Los Angeles County's workfare program will be allowed for the first time to file formal complaints about working conditions under new county regulations.

The grievance procedure applies to recipients in the county-funded General Relief program for single adults with no dependents. Most General Relief recipients must perform clerical tasks or building, road and grounds maintenance to receive a $221 monthly benefit check.

The hours worked are based on the minimum wage.

Many program workers have complained that they do the same work as regular employees but have been denied basic worker protections. As workfare program have expanded around the country, a debate is growing over protections for welfare recipients required to work.

The Los Angeles County regulations, which take effect next month, are believed to be among the first in the nation to address the issue of grievance procedures.

"I praise God for these new rules," said Debra Harris, 37, a Los Angeles General Relief recipient. Harris said that at one of her work sites she once had a chair slide from under her and bruised her temple. She received no medical attention or compensation for missed time.

Under the new policy, recipients will be given a form to state the nature of the complaint, which must be addressed within 10 days. Workfare workers also have the right to appeal any decisions by their supervisors to the director of the workfare program.

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