Press Release


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an enforcement guidance modifying its position on remedies available to unauthorized workers under federal employment discrimination laws. The guidance addresses recent legal developments and explains the basic remedies available to this class of workers under EEOC- enforced laws.

"This guidance makes clear that the anti-discrimination laws under the Commission's jurisdiction protect all employees across the country, regardless of their work status," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "Unauthorized workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It is imperative for employers to fully understand that discrimination against this class of employees will not be tolerated and that they will be responsible for appropriate remedies if they violate the civil rights laws."

Chairwoman Castro further explained that the new guidance is fully consistent with the nation's immigration laws, principally the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). "If employers were not held responsible for discrimination against unauthorized workers, it would create an incentive for unscrupulous employers to engage in unlawful workplace conduct," said Ms. Castro. "This would directly undermine the enforcement of the immigration laws by encouraging the employment of unauthorized workers. It would also harm authorized workers who might be denied jobs or be subjected to a work environment which tolerated discrimination."

The new guidance addresses the availability of remedies under the following statutes, where an employer has unlawfully discriminated against undocumented workers: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Pay Act.

The guidance explains that undocumented workers are entitled to the same remedies as any other workers back pay, reinstatement if the employee was unlawfully terminated, hiring if the employee was denied a job due to discrimination, other appropriate injunctive relief, damages and attorneys' fees except in the very narrow situations where an award would directly conflict with the immigration laws. The guidance also emphasizes that unauthorized workers are fully protected by the retaliation principles of the federal anti-discrimination laws.

The new guidance replaces EEOC's Policy Guidance: Effect of the Immigration Reform and Control Act on the Remedies Available to Undocumented Aliens Under Title VII (N-915.040) issued on April 26, 1989. The Commission re-evaluated its position on back pay in light of important legal developments since 1989 regarding the availability of back pay to undocumented workers under the closely related National Labor Relations Act. In addition, the Commission addressed other changes in the law since 1989, principally the creation of a damages remedy under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The guidance will be available on EEOC's web site ( shortly after release of the document. It can also be obtained by calling or writing to EEOC's Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20507.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 and older; the Equal Pay Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

This page was last modified on October 26, 1999.