As an immigrant working—or hoping to work—in the United States, it may help you to know the ways in which U.S. laws protect you. Issues like discrimination and fair wages are some of the most common concerns for immigrants.
Whether you hold an employment visa, a green card or you are a recently naturalized person, as an employed individual in the U.S., federal labor laws apply to you. This means that on the job you have the same rights as any other U.S. citizen. This is because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the job.
You are protected against discrimination and harassment
Regardless of whether you come from East Asia, Europe or Central America, many immigrants face discrimination. You may experience it in the hiring phase. For instance, an employer may discriminate in their hiring based on nationality. And you may experience racial prejudice in your everyday interactions with a coworker or boss.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) enforces employment anti-discrimination laws. These laws protect workers from discrimination and harassment based on:
The laws even cover instances of language or accent-based discrimination. An employer may base their hiring decision on language only in situations where the job duties require a certain level of speaking skills.
You are entitled to fair wages
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) entitles you to the standard U.S. minimum wage and overtime pay. This federal act applies to Georgia businesses who annually pull in $500,000 or more. It also applies to workers of institutions like hospitals, schools and government agencies which many not generate the $500,000 threshold. Additionally, the FLSA covers workers performing domestic job duties (like nannies, housekeepers and gardeners) at a private residence.
A fair wage is a right that everyone should have. But it is especially important for immigrants who leave their families and friends to work in the United States. You are giving up time you could be spending with loved ones, and you may be doing so for the sake of a better future for your family.
Understanding your basic labor rights may protect you from employers who may want to take advantage of you.