Critical race and racial capitalism theories posit that systems and structures in the workplace reinforce each other to create oppressive conditions for groups of workers based on race, national origin, and/or sex. Some of these structures are reproduced from other areas of work and have roots in exploitative labor conditions. Civil rights lawyers attempting to use existing laws or develop new laws to root out these structures face obstacles within and outside the judicial system. This Essay focuses on two laws recently passed in California to protect vulnerable workers: the California Property Service Workers Protection Act, which seeks to protect janitorial services workers from highly exploitative practices of their employers, and the Stand Against Non Disclosures Act and its amendment, the Silenced No More Act, which seek to ensure that harassment in the workplace is no longer hidden in settlement or severance agreements. Reading these statutes through a critical race lens demonstrates both their importance to changes in the workplace and their limitations in the face of intractable employer and societal attitudes.

The interaction of these two laws further demonstrates several tenets of Critical Race Theory (“CRT”). This Essay applies these tenets to the janitorial services industry and evaluates the effectiveness of laws meant to protect janitors through a critical race lens. Legislation such as these laws focuses on practices that should be eliminated in the workplace. The legislation does not end systems such as contracting, and it does not end conditions that allow hostile work environments to proliferate. These laws do, however, provide starting points for janitors seeking to improve their workplaces. CRT helps continue interrogation of such legislation and pushes for more systemic change by focusing on the ways in which race informs the treatment of janitors.

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