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Immigrant Worker Rights:

Immigrant Worker Rights:

Outten & Golden Legal Resistance Task Force

What are my rights as an undocumented worker?

Undocumented workers enjoy many of the same rights and remedies that all workers do under federal, state and local laws.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of some important protections.

Just like any other employee, as an undocumented worker, you have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment based on your race, color, sex, national origin, age (40 and over) and physical or mental disability.  Many state and local laws protect you based on your membership in even more protected classes.  However, your employer can refuse to hire you or fire you because you do not have valid work authorization.

You are entitled to the full and prompt payment of your wages.  Your employer must comply with all federal, state and local minimum wage laws and are prohibited from underpaying you because of your immigration status.  If you qualify as a non-exempt employee, you are entitled to the same wage benefits as all other workers such meal and rest breaks and overtime pay.

You have the right to work in a safe working environment and to be free from dangerous working conditions. You have the right to be free from violence in the workplace, including hate crimes.

You also have the right to complain about your unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions or discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  You also have the right to participate in investigations related to working conditions or file legal complaints.  Your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for making complaints or participating in an investigation or legal proceeding.

Please note that this information is not a substitute for legal advice.  If you have any questions about your protections or believe that your rights are being violated, please contact us.  Any information provided to will be kept strictly confidential.

What are my rights based on my national origin?

Federal and state laws protect you from discrimination because you (or your ancestors) are from a certain country or region or you have the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group.  You are also protected from discrimination based on your perceived national origin even if the perception is false.  For example, it is unlawful for your supervisor to discriminate against you because he believes that you are of a Middle Eastern national origin even though you may not identify as Middle Eastern.

Employers are also prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against you based on your citizenship status if it has the purpose or effect of discriminating based on national origin.  You are also protected from discrimination for being associated with a certain national origin, that is, for being married to someone with a particular national origin, for example.

In addition, employers may not discriminate based on the discriminatory preferences of coworkers, customers or clients.  

You also have the right to be free from harassment or a hostile work environment based on your national origin.  This harassment may take many forms such as ethnic slurs, racial epithets, the distribution of racially offensive materials, ridicule, intimidation, physical violence or other offensive conduct directed towards an employee because of her national origin, race, ethnicity, culture, language, dress or foreign accent. 

Language restrictive policies – such as English-only rules – may contribute to a hostile work environment.  In most circumstances, an English-only rule that applies at all times (including during breaks and lunch) is presumptively unlawful.  English-only rules that apply in limited circumstances may be lawful if your employer can show that the language restrictive policy is necessary to the safe and efficient performance of your job.  Moreover, your employer may not discriminate against you because you have an accent unless your employer can show that effective spoken communication in English is required to perform your job duties and your accent materially interferes with your ability to communicate in spoken English.

Your employer is liable for a hostile work environment if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take immediate corrective measures regardless of whether the harassment was committed by your supervisor, coworkers or third parties such as customers or vendors.

Please note that this information is not a substitute for legal advice.  If you have any questions about your protections or believe that your rights are being violated, please contact us.  Any information provided to will be kept strictly confidential.

Immigrant Worker Rights resources:

National Immigration Law Center (NILC): https://www.nilc.org/issues/workersrights/

#NoBanNoWallNoRaids: https://nobannowallnoraids.wordpress.com/ (online platform providing news updates and tools for mobilizing, including know your rights tools)

Make the Road New York (MRNY): http://www.maketheroadny.org/

Collection of resources and guides for immigrant workers: http://employeerightsadvocacy.org/our-work/employment-rights-of-immigrants-refugees/

DOL guidance on laws and regulations concerning immigration: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/immdisc

EEOC guidance on immigrant rights in the workplace: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/immigrants-facts.cfm

Fact sheet for undocumented workers: https://legalaidatwork.org/factsheet/even-if-youre-undocumented-you-still-have-rights/

Fact sheet for refugees and asylees: http://michiganimmigrant.org/resources/library/know-your-rights-employment-discrimination-protections-refugees-and-asylees

Legal issues in refugee employment: http://www.refugeesinpa.org/employingrefugees/legalissuesemployment/index.htm

Know your rights resources for immigrants: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights?topics=270

Deportation emergency toolkits: http://sfilen.org/publication/

Pro bono resources for immigration legal services: http://www.refugeelegalaidinformation.org/united-states-america-pro-bono-directory

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