Workplace violence against immigrants includes sexual violence and being forced to work. Workplace violence is clearly an abuse of power and control, and is often maintained by immigration-specific forms of coercion and manipulation, such as threats to report to immigration authorities or threats of deportation.
It is important for advocates to remember that while workplace violence happens at recognized places of employment, it can also happen in people’s homes. For example:
- the person is brought to the US as a spouse but treated as a servant and/or prostitute
- the person is brought to the US as a housemaid but once in the US, their travel documents are taken away and they are forced to work without pay and under threat of being returned to their country of origin with nothing or being turned in to immigration law enforcement for deportation
As part of your intake conversation, if you have concerns about workplace violence, there are parallels to the screening processes for domestic and sexual violence: seek to understand, with the survivor, who is in control of their work situation, what their choices might be, and whether or not they or their families are being threatened.
Workplace violence links directly to several major federal laws and systems:
- Sexual harassment and assault at the workplace is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII is specific to terms and conditions of employment, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin). Immigrant workers, including those who are undocumented, are covered under federal laws against discrimination.
- Exploitation at the workplace includes wage theft, dangerous work conditions, discrimination, or being forced to work through physical force, threats of force, or threats of legal coercion (e.g., “if you don’t work, I’ll call the immigration authorities”). Being compelled to work through force, threats, or coercion violates US laws against involuntary servitude, forced labor, and trafficking. Immigrant victims of these forms of workplace violence may be eligible for T- or U-visas , under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
If you are supporting an immigrant survivor who is experiencing or has experienced workplace violence – regardless of whether or not the sexual/domestic violence is connected to the workplace violence - it is recommended that you connect and collaborate, with the survivor, with civil rights and/or trafficking advocates and attorneys. “Tools & Resources,” below, can help you prepare for this collaborative role and connect you to advocacy organizations in your area. Information and resources to help you support an immigrant survivor of sexual violence are provided throughout the rest of this Toolkit.
Tools & Resources
“Sexual violence in the workplace: A training for domestic violence advocates,” a webinar by the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (2013) available here, provides advocates with critical guidance on establishing grounds for workplace violations and how to work with the local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to protect survivors and prosecute their civil rights claims.
See “The role of the attorney, advocate, counselor, or medical professional” in the manual Empowering Survivors: Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault for information specific to documenting sexual violence at the workplace.
Sexual violence and the workplace: General statistics and information by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides information on sexual violence in specific industries: restaurant, government, agricultural, and military. See also Information for advocates for information about survivors’ legal rights and safety planning considerations.
Employment discrimination and sexual harassment by Legal Momentum lists advocacy resources (including legal).
National Human Trafficking Resource Center resources include:
- What Is Human Trafficking page with information on red flags and indicators of trafficking (see “Recognizing the signs” and “Myths & misconceptions”).
- Online training on immigration relief for trafficking victims: How T and U Visas can Assist Trafficking Victims.
- Technical assistance or hotline to report human trafficking.
Tamayo, W.R. (2013). Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace: A basic guide for attorneys in obtaining relief for victims under federal employment law. In L. Orloff (Ed.), Empowering Survivors: Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault.National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project, Washington College of Law at American University, and Legal Momentum.
See pages 810-813.