The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported in its June 5, 2014 Newsletter that the DOL’s Wage & Hour Division, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reached workplace protection agreements with several Mexican consulates in Arizona to encourage immigrant workers to report workplace problems. OSHA and the DOL entered into such agreements with the Mexican consulates in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Nogales, and Douglas. The NLRB entered into an agreement with the Mexican consulate in Phoenix.
Through these “accords” the agencies and consulates have agreed to cooperate on reporting and investigating workplace conditions and worker treatment, including potential workplace safety and wage-and-hour violations. Immigrant workers are encouraged to report any such concerns to their local consulates which, in turn, agree to pass information along to OSHA, the DOL, and the NLRB, as appropriate, even if the employee complaint is anonymous. “In a changing 21st century economy, [efforts to combat wage violations and address other worker rights issues] begins with a strategy of changing the incentives for compliance through strategic focused enforcement and outreach to stakeholders," said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Dr. David Weil recently while speaking to worker advocacy groups and others in Portland, Oregon. The cooperative accords seek to encourage workers who typically will not initiate complaints for fear of reprisals due to their immigration status, to report their concerns through the Mexican consulates.
Notwithstanding these arrangements, employers remain obligated to comply with federal and state employment-eligibility verification requirements, including the Form I-9 and the prohibition against knowingly hiring or continuing to employ persons without work authorization. The recent cooperative accords, however, signify that employers that fail to comply with workplace regulations, including OSHA and federal wage-and-hour requirements, are subject to government investigations regardless of whether the complainant is work authorized.