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Illinois A.G. Issues Workplace Guidelines for Immigrants

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently released guidelines expected to positively impact the rights of immigrants in the workplace.

Following a series of policy shifts and significant federal court cases that underscored changes to programs, employees and employers have been uncertain about how the new rules alter rights and obligations in the workplace.

The policy upheaval has also left an informational void where employee and employer rights and duties intersect. Hopefully, the A.G.’s guidance will clarify significant immigrant uncertainties.

The recently released “Guidance for Illinois Residents: Impact of Immigration Status on Employees’ Rights in the Workplace” outlines the obligations that companies will assume toward immigrant workers based on the Immigration and Nationality Act. It also adheres to protections granted under federal and state anti-discrimination and wage mandates.

What Immigrant Workers Should Know About Your Rights

A.G. Madigan’s guidance notes that employers must continue to verify an immigrant’s lawful right to work in the U.S. when hired and to recheck an employee’s status when a visa nears expiration. This places the burden of working through the immigration bureaucracy on immigrant workers to be proactive about updating visas and legal status.

Business owners need to document employment status and be prepared for immigration audits. “The Trump administration has focused heavily on immigration enforcement and is expected to continue doing so. Businesses should expect and be prepared for ICE audits”

Aside from the federal audits, employers need to be prepared for state wage-hour audits.

Fortunately, the guidance also articulates that immigrant workers maintain certain rights regardless of their status that include the following.

Minimum Wage Mandates

All Illinois employees must receive a minimum of $8.25 per hour and $11 when working in Chicago.

Overtime Hours

Overtime pay of 1.5 times the base wage must be paid for hours worked over 40 in a week. There are some notable exceptions under Illinois law.

Workplace Safety

Immigrants enjoy the right to a safe and healthy workplace environment based on OSHA and other standards.

Collective Bargaining

All Illinois workers maintain the right to form or join a union.

Anti-Discrimination

Immigrants employees cannot be discriminated against based on race, religion, gender, age or nation of origin among others.

It’s also imperative for hard-working immigrants to understand that employers cannot treat you differently because of your status. If you have a valid work permit or green card, a company cannot hire or fire you in a fashion different from a U.S.-born or naturalized citizen.

Employers must also follow federal and state regulations equally with each and every employee. That means you cannot be required to produce additional documents or meet standards that other co-workers do not.

In too many cases, Latino-Americans have been inappropriately asked to produce proof of citizenship or legal residence when people of other nationalities are not. Such practices are inherently discriminatory.

What Immigrants Can Do If Your Rights Are Violated

The A.G.’s guidance is intended to help workers and employers understand their rights and obligations in the workplace and avoid discriminatory practices.

Despite the push to educate Illinois residents about changes to workplace protocols, immigrants continue to suffer discrimination.

If you are an immigrant who has been treated inappropriately by an employer, it’s important to report the incident to the A.G.’s office or contact an immigration attorney.

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