The Employer Preference for the Subservient Worker and the Making of the Brown Collar Workplace

74 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2006

See all articles by Leticia M. Saucedo

Leticia M. Saucedo

University of California, Davis - School of Law


The rapidly growing Latino immigrant population raises questions about how the "brown collar" worker is being incorporated into our economy. Newly arrived Latino immigrants, or "brown collar" workers, are increasingly found in segregated workplaces throughout the country. They typically perform the least desirable jobs in the most unstable conditions in our economy. This article explores the creation of these workplaces by focusing first, on the conditions that create brown collar subservience and second, on employer practices that seek workers out for their subservience. Today's anti-discrimination law does not adequately capture the form of discrimination lurking in the interaction between brown collar workers taking the jobs no one else wants and employers seeking subservient workers.

The myth of the immigrant worker taking the jobs nobody else wants resonates in our public culture. This article challenges the myth by exploring sociological theories that explain how and why employers, through their preference for subservient workers, create jobs that native-born workers will not take. It also uncovers assumptions about the dynamics of immigrant workplaces embedded in neoclassical economic theories at the heart of judicial opinions. Practices such as network hiring, job structuring, targeting subservience, and avoiding native-born workers, are all couched in terms of worker choice. Alternative sociological theories provide a counter-narrative: employers take advantage of the social conditions that make brown collar workers subservient by setting workplace conditions and pay rates.

There is no adequate place in the current anti-discrimination frameworks for such a narrative. This article explores the power of the anti-subordination principle to recognize employer preferences for the subservient worker as a possible form of discrimination. It suggests that incorporation of the alternative sociological theories into current Title VII frameworks can provide a remedy for brown collar workers seeking the advancement opportunities that the American dream promises.

Keywords: Employment Discrimination, Immigration

JEL Classification: K30, J71

Suggested Citation

Saucedo, Leticia M., The Employer Preference for the Subservient Worker and the Making of the Brown Collar Workplace. Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 67, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Leticia M. Saucedo (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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