At Higher, we frequently receive inquiries about the rights of refugee workers. To address those past and future inquiries we have compiled a list of worker’s rights and associated websites. These rights are important topics for job readiness classes and may enable refugees to recognize instances of discrimination and unsafe working conditions.
Right to be paid – in most instances, workers have the right to be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and to receive overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. If workers do not receive all of the wages for the time they actually worked, they can take action to recover those wages. Note that many states have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage.
Right to be free of discrimination – it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against or harass workers based on race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin or sex.
Right to organize – in most workplaces, it is illegal for an employer to punish or threaten workers for organizing with others to improve their working conditions.
Right to be safe on the job – workers are protected by workplace health and safety laws at their worksites.
Right to benefits if injured on the job – in most states, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to the protections of state workers’ compensation laws.
Right to unemployment payments – in most states workers who are fully or partially unemployed, looking for work, and have valid work documentation are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
Right to choose which documents to show your employer for employment eligibility verification (I-9) – for example, your employer cannot demand that you show them a green card. If you do not have a green card yet, you may show your employer your driver’s license or ID and Social Security Card (SSC).
Right to begin work – if you do not have your Social Security card but can provide other documentation of status such as an I-94, you can still begin working unless e-verify is required, in which case a SS number or card is needed at time of employment.
Right to a work environment free of harassment – if you encounter harassment in the form of sexual aggravation, taunting and bullying, or hazing, you may file a report with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.
Right to report unfair hiring or work practices – you can report any offenses to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel by calling their hotline at 1-800-255-7688.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Department of Labor’s Summary of Rights
- S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices
- Worker Hotline: 1-800-255-7688
- Frequently asked questions about name/social security number no-matches
- Cartoon Examples of Unfair practices and what the OSC does (Translations available in Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, Russian, Tagalog)
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Workplace Fairness
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
How do you teach refugees in your job readiness classes about their rights in the workplace? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!