Many workers in the United States, including in California, can find themselves in delicate situations regarding immigration status and employment. Renewing a work visa one day late can place you in a precarious position, while undocumented workers may have little to no recourse in many situations without being discovered. An unscrupulous employer may take advantage of this to exploit workers in delicate situations regarding immigration status - and may threaten to report your immigration status if you intend to report unsafe, discriminatory, or otherwise unethical work conditions. Can your employer legally do this, or do you have protections even in your situation?
Believe it or not, you are actually protected in this situation. This is called immigration-related retaliation, and the California Department of Industrial Relations states that if an employer threatens to report your immigration status as retaliation for you exercising your human rights under California Labor Codes, they may reported to the Labor Commissioner. Even if your immigration status is in question, you still have the right to not be exploited based on those conditions.
This may create some difficulties when dealing with other immigration laws, however, and care should always be taken when exercising your rights. You may choose to speak to someone at the California Department of Industrial Relations under conditions of anonymity if you fear other consequences for your disclosure.
This blog post has been intended as an informational and educational resource, and should not be misconstrued as actionable legal advice or a substitute for the counsel of a qualified attorney.