Workers in California have specific rights outlined by federal and state laws – but what if you’re an undocumented immigrant? What if you’ve been deported before and are currently in the United States unlawfully? Does your immigration status affect your workplace rights in California? This guide explains.
Does Your Immigration Status Affect Your Workplace Rights in California?
Your immigration status does not affect your workplace rights in California. It doesn’t matter why you’re here, where you’re from or how you got here (though it may matter in other scenarios) – you have the same workplace rights as every other worker in California does.
After an employer hires you, your rights are protected by federal and state laws.
Your Rights, Regardless of Immigration Status
You have the same workplace rights as every other worker in California has, regardless of your immigration status. Provided you’re a nonexempt employee, you have the right to:
- Workplace safety
- Rest and meal breaks
- Minimum wage and overtime
- Benefits if you’re injured on the job
- Benefits if you become unemployed
- Take action to report workplace conditions or issues without fear of losing your job
One of the most common issues that arises, particularly for undocumented immigrants, is the issue of pay. Some people hire undocumented immigrants because they want to avoid paying the state minimum wage of $14 per hour (or $15 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees).
Your employer must pay you at least $14 per hour to work (and $15 per hour if it employs 26 or more people), whether you’re an undocumented immigrant, documented immigrant or U.S. citizen.
Related: What if my employer fires me for taking time off work after childbirth?
The highest number of citations for wage theft – an employer’s act of failing to pay workers what they earned – occur in these industries:
- Food and restaurants
In fiscal year 2018 alone (the last year for which data is currently available), employers stole more than $77.4 million from undocumented workers
Other Wage Issues Many Undocumented Immigrants Face
Sometimes employers refuse to pay undocumented immigrants overtime wages; worse, those employers may tell workers that they cannot report the issue to the authorities because the workers are undocumented. Additionally, many undocumented immigrants experience issues with:
- Off-the-clock violations, such as being told to work before or after shifts without pay
- Meal and rest break violations, such as denying workers the breaks they’re entitled to during shifts
- Wage deductions, such as collecting gratuities and requiring workers to pay for work-related expenses (like uniforms and safety gear)
You have the right to report wage theft and to get compensated for the time you’ve worked. If your employer isn’t paying you properly, you may want to get in touch with an attorney about your situation.
Related: The guide to exempt employees in California
What if You Don’t Have Pay Stubs?
Many undocumented workers don’t have pay stubs. However, you can still file a complaint without pay stubs – you just need to come up with credible evidence. You should keep track of all the hours you’ve worked, as well as your employer’s contact information; you may need to get statements from coworkers attesting that you actually worked those hours.
Will My Employer Retaliate Against Me if I Report Wage Violations?
It’s important that you know it’s illegal for an employer to retaliate against someone for reporting a wage violation. However, it still happens – so your employer may fire you. However, if your employer does fire you for reporting wage violations, that’s a separate complaint – and you can file it with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. There are consequences for businesses that engage in wage theft and that retaliate against workers for filing complaints, and you could be entitled to financial compensation.
Are You an Undocumented Immigrant Who’s Been a Victim of Wage Theft?
You may benefit from talking to an attorney about your situation – and you may be able to get back the wages your employer owes you. Call our office at 818-230-8380 for a free consultation with an experienced employment lawyer who can give you the legal advice you need. If it’s easier, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.