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Employment Discrimination Against Immigrants

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What is Employment Discrimination?

Employment discrimination is the unfair or unequal treatment of a person or group of persons based on their classification in a “protected status”, such as race, national origin, sex, religion, and political background.  Anti-discrimination laws prohibit such conduct as harassment or preferential treatment based on the person’s background.

The main federal law governing discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Title VII basically makes it illegal to discriminate against persons with regards to hiring, firing, and other important employment decisions. 

What Other Laws Govern Immigrants and Employment Discrimination?

While Title VII provides broad protection against employment discrimination, a few other laws specifically address employment discrimination against immigrants (non-U.S. citizens). 

One of these laws is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which mainly protects immigrants against national origin discrimination (unfair treatment based on the person’s country of origin).  The INA contains provisions cover:

  • Discrimination based on Immigration Status:  Employers may not discriminate in hiring, firing, or recruitment based on a person’s citizenship or immigration status.  This applies to employers who maintain four or more employers. 
  • National Origin Discrimination: Employers with fewer than 15, but more than 3 employees, may not treat persons differently based on their national origin.  This also includes factors such as ancestry, language pronunciation, speech accents, or “appearing” like a foreigner.  Employers with more than 15 employees are subject to EEOC requirements
  • Unfair Document Practices:  Employers may not, based solely on the person’s citizenship, request that an applicant provide more documents than are normally required.  An example of this is where the employer requires so many additional documents than normally required, in order to make it more difficult to apply for the job.  This is also known as “document abuse”.
  • Retaliation:  Immigrant applicants or workers may file a valid government complaint against an employer for discrimination.  The employer may not “retaliate” against the immigrant by firing them or otherwise penalizing them for filing the complaint.

Thus, an immigrant may have several different sources of laws that can be of help in an employment discrimination claim.

What if I Have Been Discriminated Against Due to My Immigration Status?

If you believe that you have been subject to employment discrimination based on your status as an immigrant, it may be possible to file a claim against your employer or prospective employer.  This may involve proof that you actually suffered measurable, verifiable losses economically (such as lost wages or benefits).

You may wish to make a written account of the incident or incidents involving the discrimination.  Be sure to include dates, names, and contact information if possible.  Oftentimes, errors can occur when management is being changed or restructured.  Be sure to take note if such changes have recently been implemented at your workplace.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Employment Discrimination?

Immigrants and non-citizens are protected from employment discrimination by a number of state and federal laws.  If you believe that you have been discriminated against, you may wish to contact a lawyer for advice.  Your attorney can help inform you of your rights under current U.S. laws, and can represent you in court if a lawsuit arises.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-08-2012 12:05 PM PST

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