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PRESS RELEASE
6-28-02

EEOC REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS FROM DISCRIMINATION

Commission Rescinds Prior Guidance, Issues Charge Processing Instructions

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today reaffirmed that the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, 122 S. Ct. 1275 (2002), does not affect the government's ability to root out discrimination against undocumented workers. Federal law makes it illegal to discriminate against any worker in the United States, regardless of immigration status. In response to Hoffman, the EEOC recently directed its field offices that claims for all forms of relief, other than reinstatement and back pay for periods after discharge or failure to hire, should be processed in accord with existing standards, without regard to an individual's immigration status.

"The Commission appreciates concerns raised by stakeholders in recent weeks about the effect of Hoffman on our enforcement efforts," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "Protecting immigrant workers from illegal discrimination has been, and will continue to be, a priority for the EEOC. This Agency will vigorously pursue claims of discrimination against all workers covered by our laws."

Chair Dominguez also stressed that the Agency will continue to work proactively with community groups to prevent discrimination against immigrant workers.

At the same time, the Commission also voted unanimously to rescind its 1999 Guidance on "Remedies Available to Undocumented Workers Under Federal Employment Discrimination Laws" an action necessitated by the Hoffman decision. The Supreme Court in Hoffman held that federal immigration policy precludes an award of backpay to an undocumented worker under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Commission's 1999 Guidance had relied extensively on pre- Hoffman NLRA case law to permit post-termination backpay awards under the laws enforced by the Agency.

The rescission notice states that the EEOC will seek appropriate relief consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in Hoffman, but will not, on its own initiative, inquire into a worker's immigration status or consider an individual's immigration status when examining the underlying merits of a charge.

Commissioner Leslie E. Silverman noted: "By this action, the Commission recognizes that the Hoffman decision required our Agency to step back and re-examine our policy on remedies for undocumented workers. While Hoffman affects the availability of some forms of relief to undocumented workers, make no mistake, it is still illegal for employers to discriminate against undocumented workers."

Vice Chair Paul M. Igasaki said: "The Commission's commitment three years ago to protect the rights of all workers, regardless of immigration status, is not altered by this action. While the Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman may affect a person's eligibility to receive some forms of relief once a violation is established, immigration status remains irrelevant to the EEOC when examining the underlying merits of the charge."

The full text of the rescission, as well as other information about the EEOC, is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.

In addition to enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the EEOC enforces the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.