Anyone who has been paying attention for the past couple of years knows that immigration is one of the hottest topics in the news. While illegal immigration has always been an important issue, the 2016 presidential election rocketed the issue to the top of the headlines.
Employers here in Texas and across the nation are particularly interested in the issue, as their source of labor diminishes during this period of low unemployment. At a time when it seems that everyone is already working, the threat of arrest and deportation has forced many undocumented workers out of the labor pool and into hiding.
So What Protections Do Immigrants Have on the Job?
With all the discussion about identifying illegal immigrants, it may seem as if our state and federal laws might not offer them the same protections against discrimination. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers with more than 15 workers on their employment roles are required to ensure workers are not discriminated against on the basis of their national origin.
While employers are supposed to ensure workers are allowed to work in the U.S. before hiring, legal status does not render workers' civil rights on the job null and void. In January, 2017, the EEOC confirmed that employees remain protected when asserting their rights under existing federal laws.
How Far Do Protections Go?
Some business owners try to get around the 'national origin' rule by hiding behind business needs. In many cases, this means refusing to hire someone based on a foreign accent or requiring workers to speak only English on the job. Some may even try to claim they won't hire someone because their customers might perceive a connection between the worker and a specific political or social group. But the EEOC rules sniffed out those dodges long ago. In 2002, the agency explained what is covered under the 'national origins' protections, including:
- Citizenship of another country
- Ancestry or place of birth
- Associations with person or group of a particular national identity
- Particular dialect or specific foreign accent
- Dress or appearance associated with a cultural or ethnic origin
Workers Still Have Rights
While the current atmosphere in America may worry many undocumented and documented immigrants, the laws are still in place. Workers still have the right to assert their rights regarding overtime and minimum wage based on their employment classification as exempt or unexempt status.