LAS-ELC Urges EEOC to Protect Employment Rights of Immigrant Workers

LAS-ELC Urges EEOC to Protect Employment Rights of Immigrant Workers
February 15, 2013
Washington Monument

On behalf of a coalition of civil rights organizations, LAS-ELC submitted on March 1, 2013 policy recommendations to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) regarding its stated goal of protecting immigrant workers.

Too often, immigrant workers are subject to overt discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, or confront oppressive English-only policies in the workplace.  An added challenge for national origin minorities is that employers routinely claim that the worker’s perceived immigration status is relevant to discrimination claims.

Last December, the EEOC adopted its Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Year 2013-2016.   Based on intensive efforts by the Commission and significant public input, the Plan included among its six key goals, “protecting immigrant, migrant, and other vulnerable workers.”   

LAS-ELC applauds the Commission for recognizing the role immigrant workers play in the nation’s economy, as well as the seriousness and scope of the exploitation that they confront in the workplace.  We are pleased that the Commission is prioritizing the protection of their civil rights, and appreciates the Commission’s commitment to “target disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, trafficking, and discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers.”

To assist the Commission in achieving its goal, LAS-ELC, in coalition with a broad spectrum of civil rights organizations, submitted a set of policy recommendations to the Commission on March 1, 2013.  In addition to LAS-ELC, the coalition includes American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations – Chicago, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, National Employment Law Project, The Sikh Coalition, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Together, the civil rights organizations represent immigrant workers and national origin minority workers throughout the United States.  The letter provided the Commission with a list of recommendations for actions that would to effectuate its goals regarding those workers, including:

  • Reaffirming that workplace “speak-English-only” policies adversely affect national origin minorities and may create  hostile work environments;
  • Requiring employers to prove that any English-proficiency requirements they impose for jobs are necessary for the jobs in question;
  • Improving access to EEOC’s services by providing EEOC policy materials and forms in languages other than English, and by ensuring the availability of multi-lingual investigators;
  • Emphasizing that employer practices based on a worker’s immigration status have an adverse impact on national origin minorities;
  • Clarifying that national origin minority workers may confront multiple forms of discrimination based not only on their national origin, but also their race, color, religion, or sex;
  • Reaffirming and strengthening the EEOC’s policy that segregation in the workplace based on national origin violates Title VII;
  • Updating the EEOC Compliance Manual’s Section on National Origin Discrimination, to incorporate lessons learned from the considerable enforcement experience of both the Commission and organizations such as ours; and
  • Adopting best practices to ensure EEOC responds quickly and effectively to employers that retaliate against workers for asserting their workplace rights.

LAS-ELC and its partners hope that the Commission will consider these recommendations and redouble its efforts to protect immigrant workers who are often unaware of their rights under equal employment laws, or who may be reluctant or unable to exercise them.