Steps Refugees Can Take If They Are Experiencing Discrimination

Any refugees that are employed in the United States have the same workplace rights as any other worker in the United States. Your status as a refugee does not matter when it comes to workplace protections. This is because you are protected by both state and Federal laws that prohibit discrimination against employees based on their race, gender, sex, orientation, religion, or where they are from. Some of the Federal laws that protect the rights of refugees no matter what U.S. state they work in are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

So, if you have experienced discrimination by an employer, or if you were wrongfully terminated by an employer because of your status as a refugee, you can file a complaint against that employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Because they are a Federal agency, the EEOC can investigate cases in any state. Additionally, the EEOC has an agreement with 44 states stating that, if an EEOC claim has taken place in one of those 44 states, they will share information with the appropriate state. This is so the state can launch its own investigation about your complaint.

You should also know that the law limits the amount of time you have to file a complaint. Although some states allow up to 300 days to file a state complaint, you have 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC.

Examples Of Workplace Discrimination

Some of the discrimination that refugees experience in the workplace are:

Not Being Paid The Same As Others

Employers cannot pay refugees less than other workers who are doing the same job. Also, you must be paid either the Federal or state minimum wage. By law, your employer is required to pay you the higher of the two minimum wages. And, if raises are given to all other employees, like cost-of-living adjustments, you must be given those raises too. Finally, if you work overtime, you must be paid overtime rates for all time worked over 40 hours.

Bullying And Harassment

You are guaranteed the right to work in a place where you feel safe and are treated with respect. Your coworkers and employer cannot engage in bullying, harassment, or retaliation against you. This could include asking offensive questions, making offensive statements about your culture, language, religion, or your English language skills. And it can also include sexual harassment or threats.

Wage Theft

Wage theft happens whenever you are not paid for work you have done. Your employer cannot require you to come in early or stay late and not pay you for that time. They also can’t require you to work through unpaid breaks. Lastly, employers cannot keep money from your paycheck for things like uniforms or food.

Filing A Workplace Discrimination Claim

It is important that you have evidence to back up your claim of discrimination. Things like copies of your schedule, copies of your pay stubs, printed emails, screenshots of texts, photos and videos, and all other evidence that shows the discrimination you’re experiencing is necessary for your claim to succeed.

Before you file a claim, you should take all the evidence that you have to your employer and let them know you expect the discrimination to stop. If your employer takes action to stop the discrimination, you may not need to file a claim. However, if your employer won’t help you or doesn’t believe you, then you should file a complaint.

You can start your complaint through the EEOC’s website.

Remedies For Harassment And Discrimination

If the EEOC finds that you are a victim of discrimination, you could be owed money for lost wages, raises you have should have gotten but didn’t, or money for the pain and suffering you’ve endured.


Written by: Elizabeth Van Arsdall