Businesses depend on having enough candidates to fill their open positions. Many companies rely on immigrants to fulfill their labor needs. In 2019, 17.4% of the U.S. workforce was made up of foreign-born workers. Despite these facts, some employers discriminate against immigrants. In 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that 9.6% of all of the discrimination complaints the agency received were based on the complainants’ national origins. Because of the problems of workplace discrimination based on employees’ national origin and citizenship status, state and federal laws have been passed to protect employees in New Jersey against these types of discrimination. The immigrant discrimination attorneys at Swartz Swidler are available to help you understand your legal options and the remedies you might have if you have been discriminated against at work based on your status as an immigrant.
Federal Laws Prohibiting Immigrant Discrimination
U.S. immigrants are protected under several federal laws against workplace discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination against applicants and employees based on their national origin, color, or race. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits workplace discrimination based on the citizenship status or national origin of applicants and employees who are lawful permanent residents, immigrants who hold employment authorization, U.S. nationals, and U.S. citizens. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination based on an applicant’s or employee’s immigration or citizenship status.
New Jersey Laws Prohibiting Immigrant Discrimination
Workers in New Jersey are also protected against immigrant discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). This law protects applicants and employees against adverse treatment based on their nationality, national origin, ancestry, race, genetic information, and color. Immigrants who are discriminated against at work can file state claims with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights under one of these classifications.
If you are considering filing an immigrant discrimination claim, you should speak to the lawyers at Swartz Swidler. We can help you determine whether to file your claim under state or federal law.
Understanding Employment Discrimination Against Immigrants
Immigrants are protected under both state and federal law against national origin discrimination in all aspects of employment, including the following:
- Recruiting for jobs
- Interviewing for positions
- Hiring decisions
- Salary determinations
- Training opportunities
- Promotions or demotions
- Career advancement
Employers also cannot harass employees based on their immigrant status or retaliate against them for filing complaints about discrimination.
You can file a discrimination charge if you were targeted for unfair treatment based on your national origin, ethnicity, creed, color, race, citizenship status, or accent. Your employer also cannot discriminate against you based on any of the following:
- Having the linguistic, cultural, or physical characteristics of a specific ethnic group
- Being perceived as belonging to a particular ethnicity
- Belonging to or identifying with a particular ethnicity
- Having a foreign accent when it will not affect your ability to perform your job
- Attending a religious space associated with a specific type of ancestry
- Belonging to a cultural or ethnic organization
- Having an ethnic surname
- Being married to or associating with others who have a specific ethnicity or nationality
In many cases involving immigrant discrimination, other forms of discrimination might also be present, including the following:
- Ancestry discrimination
- Color discrimination
- Genetic information discrimination
- Language discrimination
- Religious discrimination
- Race discrimination
It is illegal for an employee to be harassed because of his or her accent or English fluency. Even when this type of harassment is not severe enough to create a hostile work environment, it might still constitute a valid claim of discrimination.
English-only rules are generally considered to be discriminatory because they can limit a person’s employment opportunities. However, there are some cases in which an employer’s English-only rule might be permitted if the employer can show that the rule is necessary for the business. An English fluency rule similarly can be permissible if speaking English fluently is necessary for performing the functions of the job. Discriminating against an employee based on his or her accent that does not affect his or her ability to perform the tasks of his or her job is illegal.
Can an Employer Ask About an Applicant’s Immigrant Status?
When you are interviewing for a job, the prospective employer cannot ask you about your citizenship or immigration status. However, employers must verify your employment eligibility if you are offered the position. Employers are required to follow the same process for every person they hire. They cannot ask you to provide more documentation than other new hires based on your perceived status as an immigrant, however.
Employers are also prohibited from having a hiring policy to only hire U.S. citizens. This type of policy is only allowed when an employer is hiring for a job that requires U.S. citizenship under the law or a government contract.
Get Help From an Experienced Immigrant Discrimination Attorney
Before you file a state or federal complaint about immigrant discrimination, you should speak with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to learn about your options and legal rights. We can review your case and help you understand the steps to take when you have faced discrimination based on your status as an immigrant by your employer, coworkers, or potential employer. To learn more, call us today to request a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.