Does your immigration status affect your employment rights?

In some instances, criminal charges might prompt separate scrutiny from immigration officials. In the event of a felony conviction, immigration officials might even commence a deportation proceeding against a non-citizen or undocumented immigrant.

Fortunately, the same consequence does not occur for reporting wage and hour violations. Although a non-citizen may be reluctant to draw attention to his or her immigration status, the Fair Labor Standards Act makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for reporting FLSA violations.

Unfortunately, some employers may still try to intimidate immigrant workers. A notable example is found on the website of the U.S. Department of Labor. The owners of a Mexican restaurant fired a cook after 13 years, apparently because they suspected the cook of whistle blowing to federal authorities about the restaurant’s wage violations.

Federal authorities intervened, discovering that the owners had, in fact, underpaid their workers about $25,000. Federal authorities also negotiated a settlement with the owners on the fired employee’s behalf. Pursuant to that agreement, the owners paid both lost wages and liquidated damages to the former employee.

The website also emphasizes federal authorities’ commitment to enforcing FLSA requirements regardless of workers’ immigration status. The rationale is pragmatic: employers might otherwise intimidate undocumented workers into accepting illegal wage rates.

Our law firm focuses on protecting the civil rights of immigrants as workers. An individual’s immigration status should not affect his or her right to benefit from the protections of the FLSA and other federal laws. When employers try to take advantage, our attorneys step in and get to work.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Retaliation: Illegal and Bad for Business,” Betty Campbell and Connie Ackermann, Nov. 3, 2016