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Regulatory Update:OSHA Offers New Protections for Immigrant Workers

Regulatory Update: OSHA Offers New Protections for Immigrant Workers

Feb. 14, 2023
New policy will empower "some of our economy’s most vulnerable workers to tell us if their jobs are jeopardizing their safety and health," said Doug Parker.

On February 13, Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary for OSHA, and Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor, signed a memorandum that gives OSHA the authority to issue certifications in support of applications for U Nonimmigrant Status and T Nonimmigrant Status visas.

“U Visas” and “T Visas” allow victims of specific crimes to help law enforcement detect, investigate and prosecute crimes without fear of retaliation based on their immigration status. These visas provide immigration status to non-citizen victims and allow them to remain in the U.S. to assist authorities in combatting human trafficking and other crimes.

For the first time, OSHA will be able to issue these visa certifications – during its workplace safety investigations – when the agency identifies qualifying criminal activities, including manslaughter, trafficking, extortion, felonious assault, forced labor and obstruction of justice.

“Expanding OSHA’s U and T visa certification authority helps the agency better fulfill its mission to make U.S. workplaces as safe and healthy as possible,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “Workers in the U.S. need to feel empowered and able to trust OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor enough to voice their concerns about workplace safety regardless of their immigration status and fears of retaliation.”

“By enabling OSHA to issue U and T visa certifications, we will be empowering some of our economy’s most vulnerable workers to tell us if their jobs are jeopardizing their safety and health, and that of their co-workers, and to support our enforcement efforts,” Parker added.

OSHA’s new authority – effective March 30, 2023 – “will strengthen its ability to protect all workers, including those whose immigration status or other social and cultural inequities discourage them from sharing information with investigators or reporting workplace safety and health issues. The authority will also provide the agency with a critical tool for protecting immigrant and migrant worker communities regardless of their lack of immigration status or temporary employment authorization,” the statement said.

Leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health praised the new policy. “This is a step forward for immigrant workers in the U.S., including millions who are undocumented,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “These workers are essential to our economy and communities but are all too often victimized by unscrupulous employers. These same employers frequently threaten to use immigration status as a way to silence workers and prevent them from speaking up about abusive and illegal practices in their workplaces.”

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, a co-executive director of National COSH notes the policy benefits workers and employers. “Protecting workers who are witnesses to illegal workplace abuses not only means workers can be treated fairly, it also creates a level playing field for employers. Companies that provide a safe workplace, use above-board hiring and recruitment practices and pay workers what they are owed should not have to compete with those who break the law to gain an unfair advantage.”

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