Coming into the country with the American dream, you find a job and have high hopes for a better life. As a new immigrant, you might encounter discrimination in the workplace and face challenges with acceptance. As you understand and trust the laws supporting you, you develop confidence in handling unfair situations in the workplace. Soon you find your path to the better life you dreamed of.
As an immigrant, if you are authorized to work in the U.S., the Immigration and Nationality Act protects you from discrimination in the workplace. An employer cannot discriminate against you just because you are from another country. Nor can he fire you, harass you or refuse to promote you. You are entitled to the same rights as nonimmigrants. If you believe you are a victim of discrimination you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) or the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).
Some employers feel they can take advantage of you. You might work long hours with low wages and poor working conditions. If you don't speak English well or tend to isolate yourself because of your cultural background, you might feel insecure about standing up for your rights. Your employer might take advantage of your vulnerable position resulting in discrimination and exploitation in the workplace. If the OSC or the EEOC decide not to pursue your case, you can still take action by filing a lawsuit against your employer.
According to the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan educational institute, there is a pronounced wage gap between an immigrant woman and a naturalized man in the workplace. As the primary caregiver to your family as a woman, you need your job to pay your bills. You realize that if you don't speak up about the effect of discrimination on your wages and on the wages of other women, your employer might think that you don't know that he is paying you less than others. On the other hand, if you do speak up you're worried about losing your job. There is a way to handle the situation. Do your homework on the relative wages in your market. Approach your boss with your concerns. Discrimination will affect your wages unless you take the initiative to stand up for yourself.
If you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace as an immigrant or if you know of someone who has been discriminated against because of her origin, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) can provide you with more information on your rights. They have services for victims of immigration-related employment discrimination. whether you have been asked for unreasonable documentation as part of your employment eligibility, treated unfairly, harassed, or been subjected to other forms of discrimination in the workplace. The programs provide seminars and educational material so that you understand what discrimination means, your rights, and what you can do about it.
- Ci2i Services: Discrimination Against Immigrants In The Workplace
- The United States Department of Justice: Justice Department Announces Grants to Fight Immigration-Related Employment Discrimination
- Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees: Newcomers in the American Workplace: Improving Employment Outcomes for Low-Wage Immigrants and Refugees
- Southern Poverty Law Center: Section Two: Workplace Exploitation: Immigrant Women Powerless in the Face of Abuses
- Center for American Progress: Unequal Pay Day for Immigrant Women
- DoSomething.org: Background on Discrimination Against Immigrants
- New York Times: How to Attack the Gender Wage Gap? Speak Up
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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