News & Commentary

January 18, 2023

Sarah Leadem

Sarah Leadem is a joint degree candidate at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In today’s News and Commentary, the Department of Homeland Security announced an enhanced deferred action process for noncitizen workers subject to labor abuse; Microsoft announced 10,000 layoffs, adding to growing tech layoffs; and Apple will audit its U.S. labor practices. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced an enhanced process for undocumented workers to qualify for “deferred action” when they have been a victim of or witness to a labor rights violation. “Deferred action” refers to protection from deportation when a worker participates in a labor rights investigation or enforcement action. This “streamlined and expedited deferred action request process” includes new guidance for labor agencies and, most notably, a centralized intake system for deferred action requests for labor agencies conducting investigations or other enforcement activities. The expedited process is intended to encourage noncitizen workers to participate in labor right enforcement in light of widespread fear of employer retaliation based on immigration status. DHS will continue to evaluate deferred action requests on a discretionary, case-by-case basis.

Today, Microsoft announced plans to lay off 10,000 employees, adding to a wave of layoffs in the tech industry. This comes on the heels of several other major layoffs in tech companies in the last several months: In November, Meta (formerly Facebook) laid off 11,000 employees. Last week, Amazon announced its plan to cut 18,000 jobs.

Apple has agreed to audit its U.S. labor practices. This audit is the result of an agreement with a coalition of investors, including New York pension funds, following a shareholder proposal presented by the coalition last September. The company will contract a third party firm to assess its compliance with its own internal “human rights policy” particularly as it relates to employees’ right to unionize and collectively bargain. Apple announced its plans to conduct this “Workers’ Rights Assessment” in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week (See pages 14, 25, and 103).

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