NEW EEOC RULING ON PROTECTION OF UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS LEADS TO SETTLEMENT IN DISCRIMINATION CASE
Nine former employees of a Minneapolis Holiday Inn will be receiving ,000 from the hotel as compensation for being fired after leading a drove to unionize the hotelís workforce. Retaliatory firing for union activities has long been against the law, and is routinely enforced. What makes this case different is that the nine employees were working without INS authorization.
This case marks the first time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has enforced its new policy of providing anti-discrimination protection to unauthorized workers. We discussed this policy when it was announced last year (http://www.visalaw.com/99nov/5nov99.html). The new policy reversed a long-standing refusal to protect undocumented workers, reasoning that providing meaningful protection against worker discrimination means protecting all people who are working in the US, whether authorized or not.
In this case, the workers, who were employed as housekeepers, were fired after the hotel discovered their union activities. The hotel then reported them to the INS for working without authorization, claiming it feared penalties for having employed them. The workers were detained by the INS, and the union then filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). After this, both the NLRB and the EEOC began investigations of the hotel.
The NLRB found the hotel guilty of labor violations by firing the workers in retaliation for their union activities. The EEOC found the hotel guilty of civil rights violations, specifically by denying workers lunch breaks, denying them a standard raise after 90 days and by imposing more demanding standards on them than on other workers.
The settlement did not contain an admission of guilt, and the hotel says it settled to avoid the costs of litigation. The hotel must report to the EEOC for the next year, and has promised to avoid future acts of discrimination and retaliation. The hotel did end up with a unionized workforce. Under the contract between the hotel and the Union of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, housekeepers must be paid a starting wage of .25, must be given a raise after 90 days, and another after one year.
Even though the housekeepers won, they are still facing deportation. Their attorney has filed a request with Janet Reno to grant them amnesty because of their assistance in the NLRB and EEOC investigations. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) supports granting the workers amnesty, and says he will discuss the case with Reno.