U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Assembly Technician, U.S. Citizen, Fired Because She Was Born in Guatemala, Federal Agency Charged
GREENVILLE, S.C. – A group of South Carolina temporary staffing firms and one of its clients, a subcontractor, have agreed to pay $42,500 and provide other relief to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC had charged that Express Services, Inc. and its local Greenville franchisee, AJK Enterprises, LLC, both doing business as Express Employment Professionals, and Proformance Group, a Greenville-based industrial subcontractor, violated federal law by discriminating against a Guatemalan-born employee because of her national origin.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, on Oct. 3, 2008, Rosmery Diaz-Caraballo, a Guatemalan-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, was assigned by Express Employment Professionals to work as an assembly technician for Proformance Group. After working at Proformance Group’s facility for about two hours, Diaz-Caraballo was confronted by a representative of Express Employment Professionals and asked to produce a birth certificate. The EEOC said that Proformance Group required that Diaz-Caraballo provide a birth certificate proving she was born in the United States in order to continue working on the assignment. When Diaz-Caraballo responded that she did not have a U.S. birth certificate because she was born in Guatemala but did have a U.S. passport proving her U.S. citizenship, she was told that she could not continue to work on the assignment.
According to the EEOC, the assignment that Diaz-Caraballo worked on at Proformance Group involved assembling control panels for use at a U.S. nuclear facility. Under the requirements of that project, all employees had to be citizens of the United States. The EEOC argued that proof of U.S. citizenship could have been verified through one of many documents, including a birth certificate or a U.S. passport. The agency contended that Diaz-Caraballo was discriminated against based on her national origin because she is in fact a U.S. citizen and she offered to prove her citizenship using her passport. Despite these facts, she was not allowed to work on the project because she was not born in the United States.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects people against discrimination based on their national origin. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Greenville Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Express Services, Inc., AJK Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Express Employment Professionals, and Proformance Group, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:11-cv-00279-HFF-BHH) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief to Diaz-Caraballo, Express Employment Professionals and Proformance Group have each agreed to distribute copies of their respective anti-discrimination policies to employees, provide training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to managers, supervisors, and staff employees, and post an employee notice on the settlement. Further, Express Employment Professionals and Proformance Group agreed to notify the EEOC of any complaints of national origin discrimination during the next two years.
“Although citizenship is not a protected status under Title VII, a citizenship requirement can have the effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers must be careful when applying citizenship requirements to ensure that persons who are citizens of the United States, but who were born outside the country, are not discriminated against because of where they were born.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added, “Federal law requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to jobs regardless of national origin. We are pleased that this settlement provides training to managers and supervisors about Title VII’s requirements.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.