Q: I recently became a naturalized US citizen. I’ve been looking for a new job, and it seems to me that some prospective employers have been hassling me unfairly about my immigration status. This may be because of my accent or the country I originally came from. Is there anything that I can do?
A: In the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice there is an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. This office investigates situations like yours, as well as those involving other people authorized to work in the US, such as legal permanent residents or employment visa holders. In appropriate cases, OSC will sue employers who discriminate against people based on their immigration status or national origin.
OSC has published the following guidance on this topic:
- Citizenship/immigration status -- Generally, an employer may not treat you differently because you are, or are not, a US citizen. [Note: one exception would be certain jobs with the government or a government contractor requiring US citizenship for a security clearance.]
- National origin -- An employer may not treat you differently because of your place of birth, native language, accent or appearance.
- Document abuse -- An employer may not, on the basis of your citizenship status or national origin, demand more or different documents than necessary for completing the I-9 Form, reject reasonably genuine-looking documents, or treat you differently when using E-Verify.
- Retaliation -- An employer may not retaliate against anyone who files a complaint with OSC or cooperates with an OSC investigation, or who asserts his or her rights under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
A person who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination for any of these reasons can call OSC at 1-800-255-7688 or visit the agency’s web site at www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc.
Of course there are other avenues to relief from various types of employment discrimination, including filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the relevant state agency.
Choosing the right course in a particular case generally will require the advice of a lawyer specializing in employment discrimination issues, particularly as they relate to immigration status or national origin. IIIC can make a referral to such a lawyer in appropriate cases.
Visit one of IIIC’s weekly legal clinics for a free, confidential consultation on any immigration law-related issue.