Relevant federal agencies include the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Examples of DOL Cases
• H-2A: temporary employment of workers in agriculture
• H-2B: temporary employment of foreign workers with seasonal skills in areas other than agriculture
The goal of the U.S. DOL is to protect the benefits and rights of (and advance the welfare of) job seekers, workers, and retirees; improve working conditions; and advance opportunities for profitable employment.
WHD investigates complaints to enforce compliance of labor standards on behalf of workers. Workers may file a complaint with WHD, which will then launch an investigation and help make a decision on whether wages are owed to a worker. Further investigation may be able to uncover more than simply wage violations, including whether the worker is being subjected to trafficking or other crimes.
WHD has designated regional coordinators to assist with applications for U and T visa law enforcement certifications. See the Immigration section on the Resource page of Chapter 4.4, Comprehensive Victim Services.
Case Examples: EEOC Work on Labor Trafficking Cases
• Judge orders John Pickle Co. to pay $1.24 million to 52 foreign workers in “human trafficking” case
• EEOC Resolves Slavery and Human Trafficking Suit Against Trans Bay Steel for an Estimated $1 Million
• Federal Judge Finds Global Horizons Liable for Discriminating, Harassing, Retaliating Against Hundreds of Thai Farm Workers in EEOC Suit
• Signal International, LLC to Pay $5 Million to Settle EEOC Race, National Origin Lawsuit
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws barring discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. For example, if the trafficking survivor was sexually assaulted, harassed, or raped by the trafficker (in either sex trafficking or labor trafficking cases), the EEOC may investigate under laws regulating discrimination based on sex and sexual harassment under Title VII.
The EEOC has been actively litigating human trafficking cases to recover damages on behalf of trafficking survivors and exploited workers. They are also able to certify U visas so long as the crime is related to the unlawful employment discrimination investigation.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
The NLRB is the administrative agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which was enacted in 1935 to protect the rights of workers to “form, join or assist labor organizations” and to “bargain collectively.”
The NLRB has regional offices around the country that investigate unfair labor practices as defined under the NRLA. Regional offices investigate charges filed by workers and, if there is merit to the charges, will issue a complaint. NLRB remedies include reinstatement and back wages, cease and desist orders, notice postings, and other remedies that are adjudicated by an administrative law judge. The immigration status of a worker affects the processes, procedures, and legal remedies. The NLRB has guidelines for what to do in these cases, including its capability to sign law enforcement certifications for U and T visas.
For additional information and tools, see the Resource page for Section 3.1, Task Force Membership & Management.