If you’re an immigrant to the United States and you’re working you are protected against discrimination and harassment by an employer. Your legal status doesn’t matter. You still have a right to work without being threatened, harassed, or discriminated against in any way.
If you’re a victim of discrimination at work you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC helps workers who are victims of discrimination by investigating employers who may be violating the Federal Civil Rights Act.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act says that employers can’t discriminate against employees because of their race, sex, religion, or national origin. Some states also have laws that protect immigrant workers from discrimination.
When you file a complaint with the EEOC and you live in one of the 44 states where the EEOC has an agreement with the state to work alongside the state will also investigate your employer’s actions. Your employer could have to pay a lot of money in fines and face other penalties too.
Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace
Regardless of your legal status you have a right to feel safe at work. Some of the most common ways that immigrants experience discrimination in the workplace include:
Not Being Paid Fairly
You have a right to be paid the same as others who do the same job that you do. Your employer can’t pay you less because of your immigration status. Your employer also can’t refuse to pay you overtime, not give you the same raises that other people get, or withhold your pay.
You have the right to work in a safe environment. If you are being called names, harassed in any way including sexually, or are targeted for abuse or bullying because of your national origin, religion, or race that’s discrimination and it’s against the law. If your employer or people you work with are using racial or ethnic slurs, making fun of you, promoting unfair stereotypes, or in any way making you feel targeted or unsafe that’s discrimination and you don’t have to put up with it.
Wage theft is something that many immigrants are subjected to because they don’t know it’s illegal. Your employer can’t require you to come in before you shift or to stay after your shift without pay. You must be on the clock and paid for all time that you are working. Your employer also can’t take money from your paycheck for things like meals or uniforms except in very specific circumstances.
How to File a Claim
Your legal status does not matter when it comes to being discriminated against at work. Every working in the United State has the right to work in a safe environment without discrimination. Save as much evidence of discrimination as you can. Make copies of your schedule and your pay stubs. Save screenshots of emails, texts, or chats that show a pattern of discrimination. Take photos or videos of any harassment or discrimination done by your coworkers or employers.
Take all of the evidence that you have and go to your employer. Show them everything and describe what is happening to you. Your employer should take steps to stop the discrimination.
However if it doesn’t, you should file an EEOC complaint against your employer. You can also call the EEOC and start a complaint on the phone. You also have the option for filing a claim with the state in which you work in as well. Depending where you are, when you file on the state level it will be also be filed with the EEOC at the same time. That also happens when you file on the federal level too, so you don’t have to send the same application twice.
What Damages Can You Receive?
If your employer is guilty of discrimination, you could receive money for lost wages that you are owed or money that was stolen from you by the employer through wage theft. You also could receive money for emotional pain and suffering.