Tribune 10/26/99: EEOC Seeks to Protect Undocumented Workers
"In a major policy turnaround, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission on Tuesday will announce a new rule giving undocumented workers more
protections against workplace abuses than ever before.
"EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro, who a year ago became the first Latin female to run
the agency, told the Tribune that the change reflects "a second look" at the
workplace rights of illegal immigrants. ...Previously, the agency took the view that its
responsibilities were limited in cases of workers who are in the U.S. illegally.
"Now, Castro said, in what is likely to prove a controversial change, the agency will
seek all protections and legal remedies for undocumented workers regardless of their
immigration status. ...The new policy was praised by community and immigrant rights
groups, which said the EEOCs action will make it easier to protect undocumented
workers, who are often afraid to come forward with their complaints to the government.
"...But the EEOCs action was strongly denounced by Dan Stein, the head of
Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based lobbying group that has
called for tougher laws to curtail illegal immigration and stricter enforcement to purge
workplaces of undocumented workers.
"...Rather than offering more protections for undocumented workers, Stein said the
EEOC should be "investigating those immigrant-dominated firms that hire their own
immigrants and then prosecute those firms for employment discrimination against other
Americans." (Chicago Tribune 10/26/99 by Stephen Franklin)
Chicago Tribune 10/27/99: This EEOC policy goes out of bounds (no link)
"Call us foolish if you will, but the logic behind the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commissions new policy extending anti-discrimination protection to undocumented
workers seems ... well, screwy.
"It just doesnt compute: A United States government agency is going to spend
taxpayer dollars to protect people who have no right to be in the country in the first
place from being exploited in the workplace. And all the while, the agency is going
to refuse, as a matter of policy, to identify those people to the authorities charged with
enforcing the immigration laws.
"...This policy is about people who have made an economic calculation: that it
is more advantageous for them to work illegally in this country -- even at the risk of
exploitation by an unscrupulous employer -- than to remain in their countries of
citizenship. It is also about those employers who hire such people and the
calculation they have made: that it is more advantageous to employ such workers,
even at the risk of government sanctions, than to hire U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
"...EEOC Chairwoman Ida Castro may suppose that she has struck a blow for fairness
and equity with this new policy. In fact, she has all but invited Congress to step up and
clip the wings of an arrogant, overreaching government agency." (Chicago
Tribune 10/27/99 Editorial)
U.S. EEOC Press Release: EEOC Issues Guidance on Remedies for
Undocumented Workers Under Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination (Tue., 10/26/99)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an
enforcement guidance modifying its position on remedies available to unauthorized workers
under federal employment discrimination laws. The guidance addresses recent legal
developments and explains the basic remedies available to this class of workers under
EEOC- enforced laws.
"This guidance makes clear that the anti-discrimination laws under the Commission's
jurisdiction protect all employees across the country, regardless of their work
status," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro.
"Unauthorized workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is
imperative for employers to fully understand that discrimination against this class of
employees will not be tolerated and that they will be responsible for appropriate remedies
if they violate the civil rights laws."
Chairwoman Castro further explained that the new guidance is fully consistent with the
nation's immigration laws, principally the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).
"If employers were not held responsible for discrimination against unauthorized
workers, it would create an incentive for unscrupulous employers to engage in unlawful
workplace conduct," said Ms. Castro. "This would directly undermine the
enforcement of the immigration laws by encouraging the employment of unauthorized workers.
It would also harm authorized workers who might be denied jobs or be subjected to a work
environment which tolerated discrimination."
The new guidance addresses the availability of remedies under the following statutes,
where an employer has unlawfully discriminated against undocumented workers: Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and the Equal Pay Act.
The guidance explains that undocumented workers are entitled to the same remedies as any
other workers back pay, reinstatement if the employee was unlawfully terminated, hiring if
the employee was denied a job due to discrimination, other appropriate injunctive relief,
damages and attorneys' fees except in the very narrow situations where an award would
directly conflict with the immigration laws. The guidance also emphasizes that
unauthorized workers are fully protected by the retaliation principles of the federal
The new guidance replaces EEOC's Policy Guidance: Effect of the Immigration Reform and
Control Act on the Remedies Available to Undocumented Aliens Under Title VII (N-915.040)
issued on April 26, 1989. The Commission re-evaluated its position on back pay in light of
important legal developments since 1989 regarding the availability of back pay to
undocumented workers under the closely related National Labor Relations Act. In addition,
the Commission addressed other changes in the law since 1989, principally the creation of
a damages remedy under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The guidance will be available on EEOC's web site (www.eeoc.gov) shortly after release of
the document. It can also be obtained by calling or writing to EEOC's Office of
Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20507.
The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment
discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 and older; the Equal Pay Act;
the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against qualified
individuals with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments;
prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal
government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. (EEOC Press Release 10/26/99)
[link Link: http://www.eeoc.gov/press/10-26-99.html