Fighting Discrimination Against Immigrants in the Workplace in NJ
The United States is often called a nation of immigrants, and this is also true in the workplace, as people born outside the country made up 17.4% of the labor force in 2019. However, discrimination against immigrants in the workplace continues to be a common problem. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 9.6% of the complaints they received (7,009 cases) for employment discrimination in 2019 involved national origin. Fortunately, there are state and federal laws in place to help protect New Jersey employees against immigrant discrimination.
With offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including immigrant discrimination. Our discrimination attorneys will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
Federal Laws Against Immigrant Discrimination
There are several federal laws in place to protect immigrants from employment discrimination, including:
- The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – strictly prohibits employers from discriminating against current and potential employees on the basis of their race, color, or national origin.
- The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) – prohibits employers from discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status against US citizens, US nationals, authorized aliens, or permanent residents.
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) – makes it illegal to harass or treat an employee or applicant differently due to citizenship or immigration status.
New Jersey State Protections Against Immigrant Discrimination
In addition to federal protections, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects employees and job applicants from any unfair or adverse treatment. While the NJLAD does not specifically mention immigration or citizenship status as a protected classification, it does protect against discrimination based on national origin, color, race, nationality, ancestry, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, or genetic information. Immigrants facing discrimination in the workplace can seek protection under the NJLAD based on these classifications.
Before filing a claim, we recommend contacting us to discuss your situation and assess your legal protections under state and federal laws.
What Constitutes Discrimination Against Immigrants in the Workplace?
Federal and state law prohibits discrimination against immigrants, and on the basis of national origin, in all employment-related matters, including:
- Termination or Demotion
- Failure to Recruit or Hire
- Differential Treatment or Pay
- Withholding Training, Promotions or Career Advancement
- Being Subjected to Harassment or Increased Scrutiny
- The Existence of a Hostile Work Environment with Severe and Pervasive Harassment
- Terminating or Disciplining an Employee in Retaliation for Making a Complaint
An individual may file a discrimination claim if he or she was treated unfairly on the basis of her national origin, race, color, creed, ethnicity, or accent. It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against current or potential employees because the person:
- Displays the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular ethnic group;
- Identifies with, belongs, or is perceived to belong to a particular ethnicity or national group;
- Has a foreign accent in a position where that accent would not affect job functionality;
- Attends a school or religious space, such as a church or temple, that is associated with a particular ancestry;
- Belongs to an organization that is associated with a specific ethnicity or culture;
- Has a surname associated with an ethnicity or culture; and/or
- Is married to or associates with persons of a particular nationality or ethnicity.
Discrimination against immigrants also often overlaps with other forms of employment discrimination, including:
- Racial Discrimination
- Color Discrimination
- Ancestry Discrimination
- Genetic Discrimination
- Religious Discrimination
- Hairstyle Discrimination
- Language Discrimination
Teasing or harassing an employee due to their accent or fluency in English is illegal. Additionally, discriminating against an employee on those grounds, even if it does not create a hostile work environment by the definition of the law, may give rise to a discrimination claim.
- English-only Rules. These rules are generally regarded as discriminatory because they have the potential to limit an individual’s employment opportunities and may contribute to an atmosphere of intimidation and isolation. However, English-only rules may be permissible if the employer can demonstrate that the rule is a business necessity.
- English fluency. This can only affect one’s employment if it is required for the performance of the position.
- Accent discrimination. Teasing, harassing, or making an employment decision based on an employee’s or job applicant’s accent, when it does not affect the ability to perform a job, is discriminatory and therefore illegal.
Is it Legal For An Employer to Ask About Immigration Status?
An employer cannot ask you about your immigration or citizenship status during the interview process. However, employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of any new hires. Employees must follow the same process for every hire – requiring additional documentation from employees they believe to be an immigrant is illegal.
Employers are not allowed to institute a ‘US citizen only’ hiring policy. They can only require US citizenship for a position if it is required by law or by government contract.
An Experienced NJ Immigrant Discrimination Lawyer Can Help You
Before filing a complaint under the NJLAD or federal law, employees who feel they have been the victim of discrimination against immigrants in the workplace should first contact McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. to discuss your rights and options.
Every person should be respected and feel safe while at their place of work. If you have worked in a hostile work environment or suffered discrimination in the workplace because of your real or perceived status as an immigrant, call our Red Bank, NJ or Marlton, NJ office or contact us online today for a free consultation. We will discuss your rights and options, which may include internal complaints or a lawsuit, and help you every step of the way in seeking justice for unlawful workplace discrimination.