Immigrants – both those who are documented and those who aren’t — face potential discrimination in a variety of forms and fashions. Some types – like comments about how immigrants should “go back to where they came from” or are “taking our jobs” – are obvious. Others are more subtle, though just as potentially damaging… and possibly even more so. Regardless of whether the discrimination that harmed you was obvious discrimination or subtle discrimination, it still may have been actionable discrimination, and you should talk to a knowledgeable New Jersey workplace discrimination attorney about your options.
The job application process is one place where subtle and insidious forms of discrimination can occur. They are insidious because the immigrant applicant may not even know that the employer has engaged in illegal practices, even though that’s exactly what has occurred.
One example of that, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, occurred right here in North Jersey. An IT staffing company based in Basking Ridge was caught by the federal government engaging in improper hiring practices.
Specifically, according to a Patch.com report, the staffing firm erected a discriminatory applicant screening process that refused “to pass non-U.S. citizens onto clients who held permanent work authorization, unless they could provide an unexpired immigration document.”
That, the Department of Justice concluded, was a violation of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA). That law allows employers to request documentation of work authorization from immigrants but allows the applicant to choose which qualifying documents he/she submits to the employers. If the applicant does that and none of the documents he/she submits are phony in appearance, the law bars the employer from asking for any more or any different documents. By demanding an unexpired immigration document, this Basking Ridge employer violated that prohibition.
The staffing firm eventually settled with the Justice Department, agreeing to pay a penalty of $53,000, as well as $35,000 in back wages to an immigrant worker who was harmed by the impermissible practice.
You May Have Options in New Jersey Under Federal and State Law
Here in New Jersey, if you’ve suffered workplace discrimination because you’re an immigrant (whether you’re documented or undocumented,) you are entitled to the benefit of the anti-discrimination protections of federal laws like the INA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
You may also be able to assert a claim under state law, as well. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) doesn’t have an express provision prohibiting discrimination against people based on their status as non-citizens generally or they're status as undocumented immigrants specifically, but that doesn’t mean the NJLAD can’t help your case.
The NJLAD prohibits discrimination based on national origin, nationality, or ancestry. So, if your construction employer has anti-immigrant policies that disproportionately harm immigrant workers from Mexico, Central America, and South America, then you may have a winning case of national origin/nationality/ancestry discrimination. Similarly, if your employer in the IT or engineering field has erected artificial barriers that disproportionately harm immigrant workers of South Asian or East Asian ancestry, the same could apply.
All workers should be allowed to compete for jobs on a level playing field. If you were denied that because you are an immigrant, you may be entitled to recover compensation. Talk to the knowledgeable workplace discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to find out what legal options exist for you and how we can help you achieve your objectives. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.