Chicago Consulate, EEOC Sign MOU Protecting Filipino Workers

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the consular section of the Philippine Embassy to the United States and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 19 in Augusta, Georgia had expanded the coverage of the protection over Filipino nationals, including undocumented aliens, if they are victims or had witnessed “qualifying crimes.”

Darell Ann Artates, Third Secretary and Vice Consul for Public Diplomacy at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., said that aside from EEOC in Georgia, other MOU’s have already been signed by the Consular Section of Philippine Embassy with EEOC’s of Miami, and the Philippine Consulate Generals in New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office and Chicago, Illinois signing with EEOC’s on those cities. “No formal MOU has been signed yet by the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles but there has been collaboration in some activities.”

The agreement establishes an ongoing collaboration between these entities to provide Philippine nationals with information guidance, and access to resources about workers’ rights under the laws enforced by EEOC, a U.S. federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination.

The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, genetic information, and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.

“Even in a hypothetical scenario where a Filipino illegal (or T-N-T, Tago-Nang-Tago) turns out as victim or witness to discriminatory practices in a workplace,”  Consul General Generoso Calonge of the Philippine Consulate told members of the Filipino community during a recent presentation by the EEOC-Chicago.  He said the the undocumented alien will be protected by the EEOC, which could extend until such time that individual was able to testify in court.

During the intake proceedings of the testimony of the Filipino national, the EEOC will not ask the witness about his immigration status similar to “Don’t-ask-don’t tell” (DADT) U.S. policy on service by gays and lesbians in the military instituted by the Clinton Administration, prohibiting military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.

“QUALIFYING CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES”

Laura R. Feldman, Trial Attorney for the EEOC in Chicago, responding on behalf of EEOC District Director Julianne Bowman, explained to this reporter that the undocumented worker can even be extended a U-Visa if the worker is a victim of “qualifying criminal activity.

“Such activity could include assault, sexual abuse, witness tampering, or many other crimes.  Also, the worker must be helpful to the investigation of that qualifying criminal activity, or must be likely to be helpful or have been previously helpful. The worker does not have to formally “testify” in court, but does need to fulfill this cooperation requirement.  EEOC must also find that the worker “suffered substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.  Finally, the “qualifying criminal activity” must be related to the unlawful employment discrimination communicated to EEOC.”

An undocumented immigrant granted a U Visa or I-360 Petition will subsequently be given legal status to reside and work in the U.S..

The MOU signed by Vice Consul Artates on behalf of Minister and Consul General Emilio T. Fernandez, and EEOC Atlanta District Office Outreach Manager Terrie Dandy, on behalf of District Director Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, will “enhance efforts to reach, educate, and protect Philippine nationals in Georgia and parts of South Carolina covered by EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said Williams-Kimbrough. “We are committed to assisting and protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers from employment discrimination, and this agreement helps to further those efforts with the Filipino community.”

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said the “formal partnership … will provide invaluable support to the embassy’s efforts to ensure that Filipinos working in Georgia and parts of South Carolina are given increased protection and appropriate welfare interventions.”

The MOU will have a system whereby when Philippine nationals, who have returned to the Philippines and are owed monetary compensation that EEOC has collected from the responsible employers, the EEOC can seek assistance to locate the national thru the Embassy.

The EEOC intends to facilitate this agreement by providing the Embassy with the name, date of birth and any other relevant information concerning these workers. When the contact is done, EEOC intends to direct to the Embassy the corresponding checks issued by the responsible employers, made out to the workers. The Embassy intends to arrange for the delivery of the checks to the workers.

The MOU, whose main aim is to conduct informational forum during the first year of the program, by providing outreach and communication on local and international media, will have a sunset provision of two years, with a “30-day advanced written notice of its intent to discontinue its participation in this Arrangement that may be modified in writing at any time by mutual consent of Participants.”

 

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