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Immigrants And National Origin Discrimination Risk For Family Employers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued four staffing agencies for alleged national origin discrimination and failing to accommodate employees with disabilities. The EEOC alleged that the employer's conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The lawsuit states that the employer recruited Latino employees to work in a poultry processing plant in Alabama. According to the lawsuit, the employer paid the Latino workers less than they were promised. It also allegedly deducted "exorbitant" relocation, housing, and transportation fees from their pay.

The employer allegedly denied the Latino workers bathroom and lunch breaks, placed them in more hazardous positions, and gave them fewer hours of work.

According to the suit, the employer subjected the Latino workers to harassment, including ethnic slurs, threats, verbal abuse, and abusive working conditions. When the Latino workers complained about the harassment and unfair working conditions, the employer allegedly failed to act. It also allegedly failed to provide reasonable accommodation and denied medical treatment to Latino workers who suffered repetitive motion injuries to their hands, forearms, and shoulders.

The staffing agencies will pay $475,000 to settle the lawsuit. The employer also agreed to review and modify its anti-discrimination policies; train employees on their legal obligations; not discriminate or retaliate based on national origin or disability in the future; and to post notices informing employees of their right to contact the EEOC if they believe they have experienced discrimination or retaliation. "East Coast Labor Solutions and Related Staffing Firms to Pay $475,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin and Disability Discrimination Suit" (Feb. 19, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Immigrants are anyone who has migrated to the United States. Immigrants can include people from all continents, and they often make up household staff. All employees, no matter their countries of origin, are protected from discrimination by federal, state and/or local law.

Consequently, family employers should share the same benefits of employment and fair pay with all staff members, regardless of their nation of origin or other protected class status.

If you have immigrant staff members, provide any needed accommodations to help the staff person perform his or her job and access available employment benefits. If a translator is required in certain circumstances, such as for safety purposes, try to provide one.

Train supervisors and managers to treat all staff equally and to avoid harassment. Have supervisors monitor staff interactions to make sure coworkers do not use ethnic slurs, derogatory language, or otherwise harass those from outside the U.S.

Here are some types of national origin-related discrimination that family employers should avoid:

  • Citizenship status: Do not treat individuals differently because they are, or are not, U.S. citizens, as long as they are legally eligible to work in the U.S.
  • National origin: Do not treat an individual differently based on his or her accent, country of origin, foreign appearance, cultural dress, or foreign-sounding surname.
  • Retaliation: Do not retaliate against an applicant or staff member who complains about immigration-related discrimination or participates in the investigation of such a claim.
  • Document abuse: Do not require more or different documents from some workers to establish their employment eligibility. Accept what Form I-9 requires from every worker. Allow staff an opportunity to resolve "no-match" discrepancies between their information and records maintained by the Social Security Administration or the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Affiliation: Do not discriminate against a person based on his or her being affiliated with a particular religious or ethnic group.
  • Perception: Do not treat an individual differently because he or she is perceived or believed to be from a certain nation - whether or not the perception is correct.
  • Association: Do not discriminate against individuals because of their association with a person or organization of a particular nation.
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