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Employment Discrimination Against Immigrants: Overview

Despite America's origins as a nation of immigrants, newcomers may still face a number of challenges when integrating in a variety of areas of everyday American life, including discrimination in the workplace. New waves of immigrants sometimes face opposition from established employers or co-workers who may be averse to, or simply fear, change. In order to ensure equality in the workplace, Congress has granted protections to workers with valid authorization to work as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA and other federal legislation protects workers from national origin discrimination in four key ways.

For more information, see FindLaw's Employment and Discrimination sections.

Employers Must Treat All Employees Who Are Authorized to Work Equally

The first protection for workers is the INA's requirement that employers treat all workers with valid work authorizations equally. This means that an employer cannot make hiring, firing, or compensation decisions based on whether the worker is a citizen or based on what stage of the immigration process a worker might be. Non-citizens with valid work authorizations generally include:

  • Permanent Residents,
  • Temporary Residents,
  • Asylees, and
  • Refugees.

The only exception to this rule is that, in order to be protected from citizenship discrimination, permanent residents must apply for citizenship within six months of eligibility.

National Origin Discrimination Against Immigrants Prohibited

Second, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark piece of legislation that protects numerous workers against different types of discrimination, including national origin discrimination. The Act is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employees who feel they have been treated differently because of their place of birth, skin color, accent, or ancestry can file a complaint with the EEOC if their employer has hired 15 or more people. Note that sometimes, English only rules are appropriate for a workplace.

Employers May Not Force Prospective Employees to Produce Extra Documentation

As anyone who has ever been formally hired knows, new employees need to produce documentation to prove that they are allowed to work in the United States. For many U.S. citizens, a passport is sufficient, but there are many different combinations of identification that can prove the ability to work in the U.S. Under the INA, an employer is limited to these documents. In other words, she cannot insist that her employees produce volumes of additional documents when beginning a new job.

Employers Can Not Retaliate Against Employees

Finally, as with so many aspects of employment law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a discrimination charge, complying with a government order, or contesting an illegal company policy. An act of retaliation may come in the form of a termination, harassment, or some other kind of adverse treatment.

Experiencing Employment Discrimination? Get a Free Claim Review

Worker's rights have always a hot-button issue in this country, particularly when it comes to the intersection between immigration and employment law. If you or someone you love is experiencing discrimination in the workplace, you have options. Since immigrants may be new to the U.S. legal system, it may be helpful to explore those options with a local employment law attorney. Get a free case review at no obligation.

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