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Officials indicate there’s been an increase in job discrimination lawsuits

Thanks to various laws, immigrants and people of foreign descent are guaranteed certain rights and privileges, such as not being discriminated against for a job position due to their race or ethnicity. For millions of immigrants, this has helped to simplify the process of landing a job, which some of them need in order to send money home to their family members.

But according to a new report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a considerable number of these workers in the past 15 years allege they have been discriminated against by those they work for.

According to The Associated Press, between 1997 and 2011, workplace discrimination lawsuits have risen by nearly 80 percent. In addition, many of these cases have involved workers claiming they were unfairly treated because of their limited ability to speak English.

John Mejia, legal director for the Utah division of the American Civil Liberties Union, indicated that he believes much of this stems from a minority of Americans who are upset over the fact that many states are adopting more comprehensive immigration policies that make it easier for undocumented foreigners to live in the country without fear of being deported.

"There’s definitely a climate of fear that’s bad for everybody," Mejia told the AP.

While some of these allegations were ultimately proven to be baseless, many of them have resulted in significant court rulings both for the accusers and the accused. EEOC notes that DHL Global Forwarding – a freight and mail delivery transportation service – was recently ordered to pay $201,000 to nine employees, all of whom alleged they were discriminated against based on their ethnicity.

Court documents indicate that Hispanic employees at the company's Dallas headquarters were routinely ridiculed by co-workers, being called a variety of disparaging and demeaning terms like "wetback," "beaner," and "stupid Mexican." EEOC also says that at the direction of supervisors, employees who spoke in Spanish while on the job were criticized for doing so.

Joel Clark, senior attorney for the EEOC, said that the company allowed things to go on that shouldn't have.

"Intimidation and ridicule  based on a worker's ethnicity isn't just dehumanizing, it's un-American," said Clark. "Employers must respond immediately to the multiple reports of  harassment and eliminate the problems so as not to permit an atmosphere of  contempt and mockery."

Workplace discrimination charges totaled 100,000 in 2010
While the overwhelming majority of companies within the U.S. never have any issues with regard to workplace discrimination, the EEOC says that they still often occur. In 2010, for example, private sector workplace discrimination charges totaled nearly 100,000. Some of the most common forms of discrimination included those based on disability, race, religion and age.

Though being able to speak English can help immigrants find a job more easily – as it is by far the most spoken language in the U.S. – workers should understand that they cannot not be discriminated against or prevented from speaking their native language.

Krista Watson, an EEOC spokeswoman, told the AP that the government issued guidelines in 2002 on when English-only rules can be enforced. She said that in most cases they can't. The only time they can is if business owners can prove that English is critical to performing a certain type of job, a task that can often prove to be challenging.

Immigration laws vary from state to state, but legal experts say immigrants should get in touch with a lawyer they may know through a friend if they believe they have been discriminated against. They may be able to offer advice on what rights they have.

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