New Jersey’s immigrant population averaged over 20 percent between 2009 and 2013, while the U.S. average was less than 13%. Several New Jersey counties revealed even higher populations than the statewide average. Bergen County reflected a 29.2 percent foreign-born population over the same time period. With such a large number of immigrants, the rights of these individuals in the workforce is an important matter for the state.
Legal Authorization to Work
Many immigrant workers have documentation providing them with the legal right to be in the country and to work. This includes:
- Green card holders
- Immigrants with asylum status
- Visa holders
- Immigrants with temporary protected status
- Those with pending applications for status
Employers may knowingly and legally hire these individuals, and these documented workers have the same rights and protections as U.S. citizens in the workplace.
Employers are prohibited from hiring undocumented immigrants. However, this violation occurs regularly. Once an employer hires an illegal worker, the undocumented immigrant is protected by state and federal labor laws. Unfortunately, these individuals rarely seek out these protections for fear that their employers will report them in retaliation and they will be deported. In fact, many unscrupulous employers use this fear against undocumented workers in order to exploit them. Some of these abuses include excessively low wages, unpaid overtime and unsafe work conditions.
Day laborers perform manual labor on a temporary basis, typically for lower than average pay. These jobs are usually in the nature of construction, roofing, landscaping, and hauling debris. Many of these workers are immigrants, and they are often regarded as the most economically vulnerable class of workers. They are frequently required to perform their duties without the necessary safeguards and safety equipment, such as hard hats, safety goggles and masks. They are often not paid the wages they were promised and many have been physically abused, but these laborers rarely seek legal help to recover their pay or address their abuses.
Rights and Protections
Undocumented workers in New Jersey have most of the same rights and protections under the law as U.S. citizens, including workers’ compensation, protections and rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and many of the rights afforded by the National Labor Relations Act. Undocumented workers are, however, not eligible for unemployment benefits under New Jersey Law.
If you or someone you care about is an undocumented worker who has suffered a work injury or labor rights violations, contact the Reinartz Law Firm for experienced legal counsel.