Immigrant and Latina Workers in New York Face Sexual Harassment, Other Employment Discrimination

1212530_39397415_03142012.jpgFemale workers in the immigrant and Latina communities frequently face sexual harassment and other forms of employment discrimination, according to a campaign launched by the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a trade organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In addition to harassment on the job, immigrant and Latina workers are sometimes the victims of wage theft perpetrated by employers who take advantage of their lack of knowledge of their rights and their vulnerability to immigration laws. The LCLAA’s campaign aims at providing education and advocacy for Latina workers and to raise their working standards. Other organizations are also working to help workers in immigrant communities.

Immigrant and Latina workers have traditionally held, and continue to hold, low-paid positions in many service-related industries with little to no job security or bargaining power. Positions in restaurants and domestic work, in New York and elsewhere, are held by Latinas and immigrants in large numbers. This contributes greatly to the problems of harassment and wages, as many workers are either unaware of their rights or do not believe they have the power to fight back. According to the LCLAA, Latina workers have the largest wage gap of any female demographic, and yet they are part of the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S.

Workers in these segments of the population are frequently subjected to sexual harassment on the job, but the issue receives little public attention. Generally, complaints of sexual harassment involving high-profile perpetrators or victims are the only ones noticed by the news media. In 2011, according to the LCLAA, one-third of all reported sexual harassment cases occurred in restaurants and other food-service businesses, where Latinos make up twenty-two percent of the workforce. The Southern Poverty Law Center reportedly found that seventy-seven percent of farmworkers of Latino descent working in the American South describe sexual harassment as a “major problem” in their jobs. Workplace violence is also a considerable problem for members of the Latino community. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reportedly found that fully one-half of Latinas who died on the job in 2010 died as the result of workplace violence.

Latina workers often lack health insurance provided by their employers and, at 38.9%, are uninsured at the highest overall rate of any population in the U.S. The LCLAA found that Latinas are more likely than U.S. women in general to lose their jobs during pregnancy or within three months of giving birth. While each worker’s case is unique, this resembles a systematic form of pregnancy discrimination that merits further investigation.

Members of the immigrant and Latina communities may not seek assistance in asserting their rights because they fear losing their jobs. For many, they also fear deportation, as some employers may employ undocumented immigrants and use the threat of deportation to discourage them from complaining. Even Latinas who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents have reported fearing immigration problems in some areas of the country. These fears act as a powerful deterrent to many workers, and they help perpetuate harassment and discrimination. Workers nevertheless have rights guaranteed by law that protect them from sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender.

The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, fighting to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

Blockbuster Settles Harassment and Discrimination Suit for $2 Million, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 3, 2012
Female Dockworkers Experience Discrimination, Harassment on the New Jersey Waterfront, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 15, 2011
Sexual Harassment and Settlement Agreements, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 3, 2011
Photo credit: ‘kitchen’ by Felipe Daniel Reis on stock.xchng.

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