The coalition is an initiative of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division to address the concerns of recent immigrants who are not familiar with their workplace rights and responsibilities in the U.S.
Welcoming Atlanta, an initiative of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, facilitated the partnership with EMPLEO as part of its public safety and economic power programs, which also support Mayor Bottoms’ equity and education initiatives. The partnership will help protect Spanish-speaking members of the workforce, as well as employers, from illegal work practices that put them in unfair and unsafe situations.
“One of our city’s greatest strengths is found in our diversity. It is in that spirit that I am honored to announce Atlanta’s participation in the EMPLEO program,” Bottoms said. “We believe that a government that works for everyone is a government at its best, particularly when informing residents of critical guaranteed workplace rights.
“In a time when certain segments of our society are targeted for their country of origin or nationality, Atlanta must send a strong signal to all its residents that they indeed have a seat at the table,” Bottoms continued.
Since its inception in Southern California in 2004, the EMPLEO alliance of community and non-governmental organizations, along with state, local and federal agencies and Hispanic consulates, has provided information and assistance to Spanish-speaking workers and employers regarding their workplace rights and responsibilities in the United States.
EMPLEO’s toll-free hotline has been instrumental in helping thousands of workers recover more than $15 million in back wages. Over the last ten years, EMPLEO has expanded its reach to also serve immigrant workers and employers in Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Georgia.
The EMPLEO hot-line utilizes well-trained bilingual volunteers who are not part of any governmental organization to assist callers by referring them to the appropriate organization, consulate or state or federal agency for help. This arrangement can help ease various concerns of workers uncomfortable with contacting an agency directly.
EMPLEO also protects employers and business abiding by State and Federal labor laws from unfair competition by those illegally cutting corners at the cost of the safety and well-being of their workers.
Overtime pay, minimum wage, discrimination, meals/breaks, and family medical leave are some of the top issues faced by Spanish-speaking employees. Most employees are afraid to report their concerns due to fears of retaliation or loss of employment.
EMPLEO reduces the vulnerability of employees to retaliatory termination by investigating concerns and protecting them from reprisals.
“Workplace labor violations are one of the most common infractions reported by our Spanish-speaking workforce,” explained Michelle Maziar, Director of the Welcoming Atlanta initiative. “By joining the coalition, the City of Atlanta can continue to inform and protect all members of our workforce and ensure that language is not a barrier to accessing justice.”
Georgia EMPLEO participants include DOL Wage and Hour Division, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Women’s Bureau, Consulate General of Ecuador in Atlanta, Consulate General of Honduras in Atlanta, The Latin American Association, Georgia Hispanic Construction Association, Tapestri, and the City of Atlanta.