EL CENTRO – The Mexican Consulate of Protection and Legal Rights in conjunction with the Department of Industrial Relations and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission utilized Labor Rights Week to provide local community members and regional work force representatives an employee rights and workplace discrimination seminar at the Center for Employment Training in El Centro on August 30.Â
In its inception, the event started off with only two Consulates taking part — now in year nine, the number of active Consulate labor rights week representatives is up to 51 nationwide.
â€œToday we will give you ammunition, because we come with the purpose of supplying the soldiers of this event with bullets of knowledge,â€ proclaimed Deputy Labor Commissioner Mabel Martinez. â€œYou need to know your work rights.Â We want to bring awareness to employers about protecting their employees and also teach employees how to learn to protect themselves,â€ Martinez added during her opening speech.Â
Forty local residents filled room #203 and quietly listened to information ranging from work-related injury regulations to work place insurance coverage.Â
Organizers stressed to the public that immigration status does not affect oneâ€™s protection under California labor laws.
â€œSo, pass the word to anyone you know that may have been injured at work, isnâ€™t receiving their entire wage, suffered a heat-related injury, or is in an unsafe working environment, and is keeping quiet because of job security,â€ stressed Martinez.
Many people incorrectly assume that contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a work-related issue will result in the discovery of undocumented status.Â Â
â€œWeâ€™ve been wanting to expand our presence here to educate people on their employment rights with respects to discrimination with the hopes that people will come to us more frequently with complaints,â€ shared EEOC Director Christopher Green.Â â€œHistorically, people who are undocumented or Mexican residents who are living in the United States, regardless of what their documentation status is, have been fearful to come to us because of our association with the federal government,” Green said.
“They think that we are going to share their immigration status with Homeland Security, or somehow, that we partner with those agencies and that just is not the case,” said Green. “We never ask for anyoneâ€™s immigration status.Â We never require Social Security numbers.Â Essentially, our laws protect anybody who is working in the United States, whether they are working legally, whether theyâ€™re working here without documentation.Â We protect everybody,â€ Green clarified.
The EEOCâ€™s primary function is to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws.Â The branch covering Imperial, San Diego, parts of Riverside, and Orange counties is based out of Los Angeles, but offices are located all over the United States.Â
Labor rights week is sponsored by the Mexican Consulate.Â Work accidents, wage recovery, discrimination and/or assaults in the workplace are issues that are currently the most commonly reported to the Consulate, according to organizers.
â€œSince more resources are set in place for employers and business owners, we find it important to align ourselves with public and private organizations to collaborate to protect the rights of the employees,â€ commented Consulate Luis Benjamin Lara Escobedo.Â â€œItâ€™s important to have a game plan in motion so that when people come to us with an issue, we can properly direct them to the appropriate agency that will best be fit to resolve the issue,â€ he said.