On June 17, 2015 Daniel Werner Senior, Supervising Attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center, was honored to testify in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Werner opened by addressing the issue of retaliation against immigrant and migrant workers as a particularly susceptible demographic for three principle reasons. He cited abusive employer threats of deportation, lack of portability between jobs due to visa restrictions, and lack of resources in workers’ home countries to support reintegration and fairness upon dismissal or decision to leave a position.
Werner went on to produce recommendations for the establishment and enforcement of tactics to combat these barriers. Werner stressed that reducing vulnerability of immigrant and migrant workers to retaliation requires in part political solutions, including comprehensive immigration reforms, tightened controls over foreign labor recruitment markets, legislative fixes, and development of civil society resources in other countries.
Some concrete steps were also outlined to expedite the process of implementation:
- Establishment of a rapid response team to immediately investigate and seek remedies- such as temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions- where immigrant workers face retaliatory deportation, visa repeal, violence or blacklisting.
- Continue to certify U visas.
- Continue to develop strategies designed to protect immigrant worker claimants over the course of EEOC litigation.
- Seek maximum money damages and strong injunctive relief for retaliation claims
- Develop relationships with reputable NGOs and trusted government agencies in support countries
- Collaborate with U.S. federal and state agencies to prevent unscrupulous contactors and employers from recruiting and hiring migrant workers.
- Remain vigilant about possible human trafficking, and make referrals to law enforcement and service providors where the EEOC suspects human trafficking has occurred.
Werner notes that in many cases, retaliation or the threat of retaliation is a central component of the coercion traffickers use to maintain compliance from workers. He suggests that when the EEOC has identified retaliation against immigrant workers, it should automatically assess whether the retaliation rises to the level of human trafficking.
To read the full written testimony, click here