Great news! On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance to streamline the existing process that protects immigrant workers from intimidation and retaliation for speaking out against poor working conditions and poverty wages. This means that immigrant workers who speak out or are witnesses to labor violations may be eligible for temporary protection from deportation and work authorization while their labor case is pending. This is a huge step towards winning fair wages and safe workplaces for all workers.
- Your rights as an immigrant worker
- Labor organizing and protections for immigrants
- Immigrant Worker Protections Explained
THE RIGHT TO BE PAID FOR ALL HOURS WORKED You have a right to receive the minimum wage and payment for all hours worked—including overtime pay.
THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE TO IMPROVE WAGES AND WORKING CONDITIONS You have the right to organize to improve wages and working conditions, to vote in union elections, and to bargain collectively with your employer.
THE RIGHT TO A SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT You have the right to say no to work that will put you in immediate danger of serious harm.
THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION You cannot be fired, harassed, or not hired because of your national origin, race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, age or disability.
THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM RETALIATION Your employer cannot use your immigration status as an excuse to fire you if the real reason is discriminatory or because you joined with a coworker to complain about working conditions. It is illegal for your employer to report you to ICE in retaliation for asserting the rights mentioned here.
CAN ICE TAKE ACTION AGAINST ME IF I STAND UP FOR MY RIGHTS IN THE WORKPLACE?
MORATORIUM ON WORKPLACE RAIDS: The Biden Administration has ceased massive workplace raids.
During a labor dispute, ICE will generally not:
- Take actions that interfere with exercising your labor rights
- Demand more work authorization documents – requiring an employer to provide more proof of your permission to work
ICE will generally stay away from workplaces where a labor dispute is taking place
WHAT IS A LABOR DISPUTE?
A labor dispute is when a worker’s rights are violated and the worker chooses to be public about the violation either by speaking up or filing a charge or complaint. This includes a worker’s right to:
- Organize a union
- Participate in union activities
- Join the fight for a contract
- Fight for higher wages, overtime pay, breaks, fair scheduling, medical leave
- Refuse to work in unsafe conditions
- Complain about discrimination or harassment because of race, nationality, color, sex, age, religion, disability, or pregnancy
- Be free from retaliation by an employer
WHAT KIND OF PROOF MIGHT THERE BE OF A LABOR DISPUTE?
- A notice showing bargaining is taking place (FMCS Notice)
- A wage and hour complaint filed with DOL
- An unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB
- A petition showing union organizing taking place
- A charge of discrimination with the EEOC
- An OSHA complaint about unsafe working conditions
- A letter to a government agency stating that organizing is taking place
- A letter/petition with workplace demands that has been delivered by a group of workers to an employer or raised in a meeting
WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE IF MY BOSS BRINGS UP MY IMMIGRATION STATUS?
- An employer’s threats to call immigration, calls to immigration, or demands for more work permission documents may be an unlawful retaliatory act.
- You may be eligible for immigration protections based on a new process that protects workers from intimidation and retaliation for speaking out against unscrupulous employers.
- Contact the organizer you work with to create a plan.
Are you facing wage theft, unsafe or unfair working conditions?
On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance to protect immigrant workers who take action and work with labor agencies to hold abusive employers accountable. This process is streamlined and accessible to all workers. Here’s how it works:
1) Contact your union representative or workers’ rights organization
You’re not alone. If you’re experiencing unsafe working conditions, being robbed of overtime pay, or being intimidated from forming a union at your workplace– there are likely many others! Contact your union staff person, or if you don't have a union, a worker center, workers’ rights or non-profit legal services organization to get help in making a complaint or filing a charge with a federal, state or local labor agency.
Remember, your immigration status is private. You should not disclose it to any agency.
2) Request support from a labor agency
You, your union, a workers’ rights organization, or legal representative can send a letter to a federal, state or local labor agency requesting support for worker protections. The letter will explain the need to protect workers at your workplace. It will also ask the labor agency to send a letter to DHS asking to protect all workers at your workplace while the labor case and investigation is pending.
3) Labor agency writes letter of support
The labor agency will send a letter of support. The letter will ask DHS to provide immigration protection to workers at the worksite where the labor violation occurred during a specific time period.
4) File a request
Work with an immigration attorney to file a request with DHS for two years of work authorization and protection from deportation (deferred action). It is important to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure you are not putting yourself or family at risk. You will be asked to gather documents to show proof of identity and nationality, employment verification, and immigration history.
Beware of notarios or scammers and dishonest immigration attorneys. Find a trusted immigration service provider near you.
5) Win temporary deportation protection and work authorization
A request for deferred action and work permit could be processed in a matter of months. It will be valid for two years and you may be eligible to renew it while the labor case is pending.