Wage and hour law is the subdivision of employment law that governs issues surrounding employees receiving their pay and other benefits. It is not an area of law that the average person has cause to know much about, unless their employer is doing something that is immediately recognizable as unethical or unjust. However, one cross section of employees that unfortunately faces much more of this kind of treatment than others is immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants. If you are in this situation, you may be treated unjustly without knowing your rights. In this article, we’ll discuss immigrant workers rights and ways you can get help if you have experienced discrimination in the workplace.
All Immigrants Have Legal Rights
Contrary to the belief of many, immigrants have rights when it comes to employment, even undocumented immigrants. While employers are not supposed to hire anyone without legal status, once an undocumented immigrant is hired, they are protected by their relevant state’s anti-discrimination laws. In South Carolina, these provisions are contained in the state’s Human Affairs Law, which explicitly bars discrimination on the basis of national origin, without making a distinction as to one’s legal immigration status or not.
Immigrant workers rights, whatever the employee’s legal status, are the same as a native-born U.S. citizen, at least in terms of employment itself. Also, employers can face heavy fines for knowingly hiring the undocumented, which would make one think that taking a chance on an undocumented worker would be a poor idea. However, because of the fear of being arrested by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), undocumented workers are often hired by large and unscrupulous employers—because they may believe that the immigrants can be mistreated with little fear of reprisals.
Common Wage & Hour Violations
While most employers avoid committing truly egregious violations of employment law, it is sadly not uncommon for them to resort to smaller, more subtle acts of immigrant discrimination in the workplace, mostly intended to save themselves money. Some examples of wage and hour violations most often perpetrated against undocumented immigrants include refusing to allow meal or bathroom breaks, underpaying or failing to pay workers for overtime, and using excuses or other pretenses to avoid paying workers the wage they were promised.
If you are denied your promised pay or other benefits and you are undocumented, you do have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division. However, it may be more efficacious to simply bring suit, if possible. Both South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law and the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 bar discrimination based on national origin. If you are able to draw a causal link between your treatment and your national origin or ethnicity, you may be able to file a charge either with state authorities or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Contact An Employment Attorney
It can be terrifying, even if you are in legal immigration status, to decide to stand up for your rights. However, you do not have to do so alone. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston, SC employment law discrimination firm are happy to help answer questions and guide you through the process.
Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.