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Department of Labor says all workers protected by law

U.S. citizens are not the only people who enjoy employee rights. New York state labor laws protect all workers, including foreign-born employees who might be classified as undocumented, according to the state's Department of Labor. Regardless of immigration status, everyone is entitled to receive overtime pay, be paid at least minimum wage, and have the right to file complaints in cases of wrongful termination and other employment disputes.

Immigration status is not relevant to employment. In fact, employers may not inquire about immigration status or reveal a worker's status to government agencies due to the city's Executive Order 41. However, police officers may ask people what their immigration status is during the course of an investigation, according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Manhattan-based nonprofit group that works to protect civil rights. Police must be investigating criminal activity unrelated to immigration at the time.

Workers should not worry about filing complaints for problems such as not being paid or not receiving overtime compensation because of not being legal immigrants. Even approaching a court or government agency about unfair treatment should not result in an immigration issue because of laws that prevent undocumented workers from being forced to disclose their status or that allow other people, like employers, to do so.

New York workers whose employers are not following the law may have legal recourse that would restore their jobs, get them back pay or address other employment issues. An attorney could assist workers in making complaints and seeking fair restitution by filing grievances with the correct government agencies or representing their clients in court. In addition, attorneys cannot report people for being undocumented residents because of attorney-client privilege.

Source:, "Guess what? 'Undocumented' workers on Staten Island have rights under labor law", Virginia N. Sherry , June 18, 2014

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