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Immigrant Worker Rights

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What is an Immigrant Worker?

Generally speaking, an immigrant worker is a person originating from outside of the U.S. who has immigrated to the U.S. under a labor contract agreement.  A business or employer may petition (sponsor) the employee to travel to the U.S. in order to work with their company.  These types of employment-based visa arrangements may sometimes require alien labor certification for the worker.

Immigrant workers can include many different categories of employees, such as:

  • Skilled workers
  • Professionals and persons of a managerial capacity
  • Persons engaged in manual or technical labor
  • Religious workers

Immigrant workers can often be subject to specific employment and immigration law policies.  These can differ depending on the state as well as the type of job involved.

What are Immigrant Worker Rights?

Immigrant workers who are in the U.S. under a valid employment visa and work permit generally have similar rights to any other workers in the country.  In fact, due to their background, they may also have specific rights that protect them from issues like harassment and employment discrimination against immigrants.

For instance, it’s illegal for any employer to discriminate against an employee or potential employee based on their national origin or ethnicity.  Some laws even go so far as to protect immigrant workers from discrimination based on the ethnic appearance or use of language.  However, immigrant workers do need to be aware of any state or private policies that ban the use of non-English languages in the workplace.

Lastly, some employers may have their own policies regarding the immigrant workers rights.  These can generally provide immigrant workers other rights, but the policies can’t be illegal in nature. 

What if Immigrant Worker Rights Have Been Violated?

Violations of immigration rights can often lead to a legal claim against the employer.  Typically, claims may be filed through the company’s human resources department, through a government agency like the EEOC, or through a private civil lawsuit in court.  The availability of these routes may depend on the type of violation involved.  For instance, discrimination cases are largely processed through the EEOC.

Remedies for violations of immigrant worker rights can include a monetary damages award to reimburse the worker for losses such as unauthorized pay cuts, lost wages, or even wrongful termination.  In cases of company-wide violations, the employer may be required to change management personnel or rewrite their company policies.

Lastly, immigrant workers should understand that hiring illegal immigrants is against the law.  Illegal immigrant workers and employers who hire them can face severe legal penalties and even criminal charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Immigrant Worker Rights?

Understanding immigrant worker rights is important for both employers and employees.  You may need the assistance of a qualified lawyer for help understanding these rights, as state laws can often be very different with regards to immigrant employment.  Your attorney can explain how the law may affect your rights, and can represent you in the event that you need to make a court appearance. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-21-2013 02:31 PM PST

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