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A Message from the Chair

Post from Chair Jenny R. Yang - October 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month (En Español)

Hispanic Heritage Month provides us with a time to celebrate and reflect on the contributions of the Hispanic community to our country's culture and economy. At the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it's also a time to consider how we can best serve this diverse community-from the farmworker in the fields, to the manager on the shop floor, to the business owner creating jobs.

With Hispanics now the largest ethnic or racial minority in the country and growing, EEOC remains committed to combating employment discrimination affecting all strata of this community. This includes ensuring that Hispanic workers-without regard to their national origin or immigration status-understand their right to equal employment opportunity. It also means providing technical assistance to Hispanic employers about their responsibilities under employment discrimination laws.

Hispanics, at 52 million people, are 17 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050, the Census Bureau estimates that the country's population will be approaching one-third Hispanic. Additionally, 56.7 percent of Hispanic households now have children under 18, compared to 40.1 percent of all households. As these children grow up, they will become an even larger share of our workforce.

American Experiences versus American Expectations, a report EEOC issued this year to mark our 50th Anniversary, showed that while the overall workforce participation rates of Hispanics increased in the senior-most positions, there are still patterns that cause concern. According to 2013 data from employers with100 or more employees, relative to other demographic groups, Hispanics continued to show high concentrations of participation in lower paying jobs. Hispanics made up nearly 30 percent of laborers and 20.5 percent of service workers, while comprising just 5.7 percent of professionals and 7.4 percent of managers.

EEOC conducts active outreach to the Hispanic community, including those working in the agricultural, janitorial, and construction industries-industries with many temporary or seasonal workers; as well as others who are particularly vulnerable, as our Strategic Enforcement Plan directs. We use Spanish-language materials and bilingual staff or interpreters to assist potential charging parties and business owners through EEOC's process. Additionally, a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between EEOC and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes joint training and enforcement efforts to protect the rights of Mexican workers, while similar MOUs between EEOC district offices and local Mexican consulates encourage further collaboration.

In addition, EEOC trains employers and business owners to identify and eradicate discrimination in their enterprises-and that applies to Hispanic employers as well. A 2015 report co-sponsored by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce predicts that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. will exceed 4.1 million this year, up from about 1.6 million in 2002.

EEOC also works to stop and remedy discrimination against Hispanics through enforcement of our anti-discrimination laws. During fiscal year 2014, EEOC staff resolved approximately 4,400 charges alleging employment discrimination based on Hispanic or Mexican national origin and recovered almost $17 million for affected individuals.

Where necessary, EEOC litigates cases to enforce the law. Our lawsuits have alleged discrimination against Hispanics in the forms of harassment, barriers to hiring and advancement, and unequal pay as well as other violations of the law. We have challenged sexual harassment and assault of Hispanic women. For example, last month a jury awarded $17 million for five Hispanic female farmworkers who had been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, and retaliation in a suit EEOC filed against Moreno Farms, a farming business with packing and distribution facilities in Florida. This month, in a separate case in Colorado, two affiliated potato packing plants settled a sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit with EEOC. The suit involved more than a dozen Hispanic women and resulted in a settlement of $450,000 plus extensive injunctive relief, which included sending letters of regret to all women who were harassed, training employees on anti-discrimination laws, and posting notices in English and Spanish about employees' rights to work free from harassment or discrimination.

This past April, Patterson-UTI Drilling, a multi-state oil drilling company, reached an agreement with EEOC to pay $14.5 million in a case alleging a nationwide pattern and practice of discrimination against minorities, including Hispanics, who were assigned to the lowest level jobs, denied promotion, disciplined more harshly, and harassed. On another front, in 2013, EEOC settled a wage discrimination lawsuit for $340,000 against Mitsuwa, a specialty market, which the agency alleged paid Hispanic employees, regardless of their position, less than its non-Hispanic workers.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month and look ahead to an even more diverse country, EEOC honors the dedication of our staff who have helped to improve the lives of many in the Hispanic community. We also renew our commitment to ensuring that diverse communities have access to our services and to promoting equal employment opportunity for all.

This post from Chair Jenny R. Yang is the eighth in a series of messages highlighting the EEOC's work