In late September, a settlement was reached between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Palmetto Beach Hospitality (PBH), LLC, a Myrtle Beach cleaning service, over their use of temporary foreign workers. This is noteworthy because employers in the United States are required to consider applications from U.S. citizens and residents before they apply for permission to use temporary foreign workers, and the DOJ found that this regulation had not been honored by PBH. This type of discrimination violates Title VII.
National Origin Discrimination
Most of the time, when one hears of national origin discrimination, they may think it applies only to immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants. This is the most common type of such treatment, but the law does apply to others as well. Discriminating against U.S. citizens also counts as mistreatment on the basis of national origin, and is equally actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Immigration & Nationality Act.
PBH was shown to have ignored or turned down applications from U.S. workers, and then applied to the Department of Labor (DOL) for authorization to hire temporary workers. H2B holders can generally be paid less, and afforded less benefits than citizen workers, which makes them more desirable for a company interested in cutting costs. DOJ’s investigation came to the conclusion that this had violated the law, ordering PBH to set money aside to cover any lost wages on the part of U.S. workers who were unjustly passed over for jobs, as well as paying a significant fine.
Is My Employer Guilty?
If you have been turned down for a job on the basis of national origin (either as a U.S. citizen, or as an immigrant), it can be somewhat difficult to tell if your employer is guilty of discrimination. This is simply because there are many ostensibly plausible explanations for not hiring an individual—like lack of experience, poor interview, or something else entirely. However, if you are discriminated against due to your national origin once you have already been hired, matters may be easier to prove. For example, a pattern of harassment is more easily documented than the uncertain actions taken at the time of hiring.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a charge with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC). Note that the EEOC has a shorter deadline—one must file within 180 days there—but if you file with SCHAC, you will generally have up to 300 days. Regardless of which agency you choose to seek assistance from, however, an attorney working for you can make the entire process go more smoothly.
Contact An Employment Discrimination Attorney
While company-wide cases and settlements like the one against PHB are rare, individual employees may experience national origin discrimination on a more frequent basis. If this has happened to you, having a knowledgeable employment discrimination lawyer on your side can be a big help. Attorney A. Christopher Potts can try to answer your questions and help smooth out the process of filing a charge if need be.
Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an initial consultation.