Dirty work on the COVID-19 frontlines: Exacerbating the situation of marginalized groups in marginalized professions

Maike E. Debus, Dana Unger, Tahira M. Probst

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6 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rudolph et al. (2020) argue that frontline healthcare workers are facing very high levels of job stressors and strains, which may develop into detrimental long-term outcomes. In addition, they point to the heavy burden of jobs in “businesses that continue to provide service to the public” (p. 8). While we agree with these points, we believe that the full costs borne by those working on the COVID-19 frontlines have been understated, as well as the reasons why. In this commentary, we argue that the burden from the global pandemic falls heavily on often marginalized groups working in so-called “dirty jobs” (i.e., "occupations that are likely to be perceived as disgusting or degrading", Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999, p. 413) who already face serious preexisting health and socioeconomic disparities. The pandemic has merely exacerbated such pre-existing workplace inequalities. To protect these vulnerable workers, we pose potential interventions at the national, community, and organizational levels. We conclude our commentary with thoughts on how we can find a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-148
Number of pages5
JournalIndustrial and Organizational Psychology
Issue number1-2
Early online date24 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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