Workplace Rights of Immigrant Workers

Immigrant workers are afforded numerous protections similar to American-born workers in the workplace, regardless of their immigration status.  One of the most comprehensive federal laws addressing the issue of immigration law and immigrant workers was the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1990.  The Immigration Act establishes a system of quotas and equations for foreign immigrants, as well as provides numerous exemptions for immigrants with niche or developed knowledge in science, math, or other emerging technical fields.  The only class of persons not covered by the Immigration Act would be those workers deemed independent contractors, which includes fewer people than one initially expects, so be sure to check with your local employment laws. 

Under the Immigration Act, employers will be taking illegal actions, if the employer:

  • Hires workers that they knowingly do not possess permission to work in U.S. per the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS)
  • Hires any worker without a complete INS Form I-9, which is the Employment Eligibility Verification Form
  • Continues to employ an undocumented worker

Documents Needed to Work in the United States

No individual that is not legally authorized to work in the United States may take employment in the United States.  New employees must file an immigration form I-9, which certifies they are who they say they are and that you are legally allowed to work in the United States.  Forging, uttering, or altering false, expired, or changed documents is a federal offense and can result in fines and prison sentences.

To prove your identity and eligibility to work in the United States, workers need only to submit one of the following documents:

  • U.S. passport, current or expired
  • Unexpired foreign passport with I-551 stamp
  • Alien registration receipt card or permanent resident card
  • Unexpired employment authorization card
  • Unexpired employment authorization document with photograph issued by the USCIS
  • Unexpired foreign passport  with Form I-94

To prove your identity and eligibility to work in the United States, workers need to submit two of the following documents:

To prove employment authorization:

  • Social Security card
  • U.S. birth certificate
  • Native American Tribal document
  • Abroad U.S. birth certificate
  • U.S. Citizen Identification card
  • Unexpired employment documents from the USCIS
  • Resident citizen identification card

To prove your identity:

  • Native American Tribal Documents
  • U.S. or Canadian driver’s license
  • Federal, state, or local identification card with picture
  • School identification card with photo
  • Voter registration cards
  • U.S. armed forces identification or draft card
  • U.S. Coast Guard identification card

Illegal Discrimination, Immigrants, and the Workplace

The Immigration Act makes numerous employer actions illegal, which would also be illegal if perpetrated against naturalized United States citizens.  In essence, immigrant workers cannot be discriminated against in the hiring or firing process or be retaliated against for exercising their rights under the Immigration Act.

Workers that feel their employer violated these laws have 180 days to file a complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration Related Employment Practices.  From there, the office will assist workers in ensuring their rights

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