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The EEOC and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently signed a National Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The purpose of the MOU, according to an EEOC press release, is to strengthen the collaborative efforts of the United States and Mexico to inform immigrant, migrant and Mexican workers of their rights under the EEOC’s non-discrimination laws. The MOU is also directed at employers, aiming to provide guidance on their responsibilities under the same laws.  The MOU was signed in both English and Spanish by EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora, at the EEOC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The MOU confirms the EEOC’s long-standing position that undocumented workers are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.  This issue has been a public focus of the EEOC in recent years: protection of migrant and immigrant workers was one of six top priorities listed in the EEOC’s most recent strategic plan for fiscal years 2013-2016. Although it is illegal to hire persons not authorized to work in the United States, it is also unlawful to discriminate against or harass them once employed. Otherwise, the EEOC’s argues that unethical employers will exploit undocumented workers and will be motivated to employ them, contrary to the purpose of our country’s immigration laws.

The Memorandum of Understanding is intended to formalize the relationship between Mexico and the EEOC, and their existing commitments and joint efforts towards the Mexican worker population. The MOU commits to three main actions regarding the Mexican community:

  • Training and Education – for Mexican nationals and U.S. employers
  • Outreach and Communication – via informational forums, local and international media, and the Mexican Consulates in the United States.  This will include a system to aid Mexican nationals who return to Mexico while owed money obtained by the EEOC from employers, to locate those persons and get them their checks.
  • Promotion of a Dialogue – about employment discrimination and equal employment opportunity

An implementation team, with representatives from both Mexico and the EEOC, will be tasked with developing a plan of action on these points. The MOU will continue for three (3) years, unless discontinued by either participant, preferably by thirty (30) days advance written notice.