Your Rights as an Immigrant Worker
As an immigrant worker, your rights under state and federal law depends on your immigration status. While your rights to receiving back pay, benefits, and insurance may be limited, federal laws and California laws provide many protections for immigrant workers who were not paid their earned wages or overtime, have been wrongfully terminated, or were retaliated against for asserting their rights. California law declares that “All protections, rights and remedies available under state law, except any reinstatement remedy prohibited by federal law, are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or who have been employed, in this state.”
If you have been a victim of wrongful termination or layoff, immigration status may affect the remedies available for you under federal law. Remedies such as lost pay and reinstatement may be unavailable for you if you are not legally authorized to work in the U.S. However, under certain California laws, you may be eligible to receive back pay if your employer found out that you are not authorized to work after they had already wrongfully terminated you. You may also be eligible for an order of conditional reinstatement under state law, which would require your employer to reinstate you after your immigration status has been adjusted and you are authorized to work.
Federal law offers protections for all workers facing workplace retaliation regardless of immigration status. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prohibits employers from retaliating against all employees who file a wage claim or a claim against their employer with the Department of Labor, cooperate with an FLSA investigation, or assert other workplace rights. It is against the law for an employer to report undocumented workers to immigration authorities in retaliation to the workers filing a wage claim or another type of complaint against their employer. For more information about the protections enforced by the Department of Labor involving employer retaliation, visit their website.
In regards to employment-related benefits, as an immigrant worker, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and State Disability Insurance. However, you would not be able to collect Unemployment Insurance.
If you are an immigrant worker who has suffered injustice on the job, you can contact our office to file a lawsuit for the amounts owed to you.