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What Rights Do Immigrant Employees Have At Work?

Documented and undocumented workers make up a significant minority of the U.S. workforce. However, employers and even other employees may become confused about their status on the job. It is not generally common knowledge that non-citizen workers have certain rights in the workplace, even if they are undocumented. Because of this, too many workers wind up in bad positions. If this is your situation, it is crucial that you understand your rights. So, what rights do immigrant employees have at work? Let’s take a look below.

The Right To Be Free From Discriminatory Treatment

While this may sound self-evident, it is still worth noting that the Immigrant & Employee Rights Section (IER) of the U.S. Justice Department is expressly set up to enforce the nondiscrimination provisions of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA). It will investigate complaints of discrimination in hiring, firing, or referrals based on national origin or citizenship status.

Alternatively, both South Carolina’s law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination based on national origin or ethnicity. If the discrimination is egregious enough, you may wish to file a charge with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You have a specific time frame in which to file, but there are no other hard-and-fast requirements.

The Right To Speak Their Language (in most cases)

While an employee who is working in a position where speaking English is required must comply with the job description (for example, working in a front-facing position at a retail store), this requirement is generally not considered lawful while on breaks or lunchtime. These so-called “speak-English-only” rules must further a legitimate interest of the business, and any that do not have a good chance to be struck down.

The Right To Be Paid

Too many employers will try to get away with not paying their immigrant workers, especially those who are undocumented, believing that the employee has no recourse to try and collect. If this happens to you, you have the right to file a wage and hour claim, either with the U.S. or South Carolina Department of Labor.

The Right To Collect Workers’ Compensation

If you are injured while acting within the scope of your employment, you are generally entitled to collect workers’ compensation injuries to help with the medical bills you will acquire. Many states do not allow undocumented workers to collect this, which puts them in a poor position—if they are injured on the job, a worker has no recourse. However, South Carolina allows any worker, “whether lawfully or unlawfully employed,” to recover for work injuries.

Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

We hope you better understand the rights immigrant employees have at work. The lack of U.S. citizenship does not mean that an employee lacks certain fundamental rights, but it can be easy to think so if you are not educated on this type of question. If you have questions regarding potentially unfair treatment at work based on your immigration status, calling an employment discrimination attorney is crucial. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in these matters, and can offer you dedicated and compassionate representation. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts to schedule an appointment today.

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