How to protect your rights if you are going to work in the US
Anyone who is going to go to America on a work visa should know their rights. The US Department of State has prepared a special memo in Russian, in which he told how an employee can protect his rights and which government or non-governmental organizations can come to the rescue in a difficult situation.
So, any foreigner who came to the United States on a work visa has the right to:
- receive decent treatment and salary;
- terminate the employment relationship at will;
- keep your passport and other identity documents with you;
- report abuse without fear of retaliation;
- seek help from trade union, immigration and labor organizations, as well as other associations;
- Seek justice in the courts of the United States.
There are several ways to protect, depending on the type of your visa. They are listed below and are ranked by visa category.
A-3, G-5 and B-1 - visas for applicants applying for visas to work as domestic service personnel
If you work as a domestic attendant of diplomats (A-3) or representatives of international organizations (G-5), or B-1 visa holders, your employer must provide you with a work contract that complies with US laws.
The contract should contain the following clauses:
- the employer's refusal to seize your passport, contract and other things belonging to you;
- the employer's consent to comply with all United States laws;
- clarifications regarding wages and periodic payments;
- a detailed description of your job responsibilities, the number of hours worked per week, as well as information about days off, sick days and holidays.
Make sure you understand all the terms of the agreement. If you do not understand the language in which the contract is written, ask someone you trust to translate the contract into a language that you understand. Do not sign anything that you do not understand!
At the interview, when applying for a visa, the consular officer will make sure that your contract complies with the requirements of US law. Feel free to ask the consul any questions you may have. Your employer will not be present at the interview with the consul.
If you sign a contract that violates your rights, or if your employer fails to comply with the terms of the contract, immediately call the hotline services from the memo. They will help you find a lawyer who can explain your rights in this situation.
Visas Н1А and Н1В for highly qualified specialists
If you are going to the USA to work as a highly qualified specialist or to work in a modeling business, please read the information about your rights and the possibility of changing employers posted on the website travel.state.gov
H-2A visas for seasonal agricultural workers
If you are going to the United States as a seasonal agricultural worker, you must be provided with a written detailed description of the working conditions no later than the first day of work. This document should contain detailed information on compensation payments, wages, accommodation, duration of work, as well as transport for delivery to the place of work.
You must be paid a salary in the amount set by the government or higher. This rate is used for hourly payments or piecework wages.
You do not have to pay taxes in the United States or make payments to a recruitment agency in your country of residence.
Your employer must provide you with free, clean and safe housing.
Your employer must reimburse you for travel expenses for travel from your country to a US workplace, but only after you have completed half of the period specified in the contract; Your employer must also pay you travel expenses for travel from the United States to your country of residence at the end of the contract.
You must be guaranteed at least ¾ of the number of working days specified in the contract, unless you have been replaced by an American worker during the first half of the contract period.
H-2В visas for temporary workers who are not engaged in agriculture
If you are going to the United States as a temporary, non-agricultural worker, you must be paid a salary of the most common, statutory minimum wage at the federal, state, or local level, or above the minimum level. This rate is used for hourly payments or piecework wages.
Your employer must reimburse you for travel expenses from the US to your country of residence if your job is completed or if you are laid off for economic reasons not related to your job until the end of the contract.
Usually, you must be provided with the terms of the contract and the mode of operation that are provided to American employees in a given position in this part of the country.
You do not have to pay for the services of a recruiting company in your country of residence.
J1 Visa for Exchange Members
Exchange programs have a minimum duration of 3 weeks, except for programs sponsored by the Federal Government. Form DS-2019 is the main document confirming the need to apply for a visa J. This form indicates the type and timing of the exchange program. Depending on the type of program, additional documents and / or a contract may be required indicating the terms of the exchange program in which you are participating.
Your sponsor is obliged to provide you with clear information regarding the cost, conditions and restrictions of the exchange program, as well as provide fact-finding information on the following points:
- general information about the J-1 visa, as well as a description of the specifics and rules of a particular program in which you participate;
- a trip to the USA;
- cost and cash costs, including accommodation, medical care, insurance;
- life and customs in the United States;
- local institutions;
- the address of your sponsor, as well as the name and contact phone number of a specific person responsible for you;
- contact information for the Service Center for Exchange Program Participants at the US Department of State;
- Department of State brochure for exchange program participants.
If you are a member of the Work and Rest in the USA program and do not have a previously agreed place of work, your sponsor should assist you in finding one if you could not find a job yourself during the first week of your stay in the USA. Your sponsor must also ensure that you are paid wages and additional payments in an amount consistent with the wages and benefits of US employees.
If you are traveling to the USA on a J-1 visa for an internship or practice:
- Your sponsor is obliged to conduct a personal interview with you by phone or via webcam;
- Your sponsor must have a completed internship / internship plan (DS-7002) before you apply for a visa. This form contains an official confirmation of the scholarship being paid, as well as summarizing information about the goals and objectives of this exchange program;
- Your sponsor must provide you with written confirmation of the costs and expenses that you will incur and the approximate cost of living in the United States;
- Your internship / internship must take at least 32 hours per week;
- If you are doing an internship / internship in the field of agriculture, your working conditions and wages must strictly comply with federal requirements for agricultural workers.
Although your sponsor does not have to provide or pay for your health insurance, he must make sure you have medical insurance that covers your stay in the United States.
If you work in the United States, you need to apply for a Social Security Number that your employer will use to pay taxes.
If your spouse / spouse and minor child is traveling with you to the USA on a J-2 visa, they can apply for a work permit only if this is not done to provide you with financial support. Additional information about the categories of visas and the procedure for entering the United States is available on the website. US State Department.
Your rights, regardless of visa status
You also have a number of rights regardless of your visa status. If any of these rights are violated, you can report the violations to the appropriate government agency. In most cases, you can also file a lawsuit to compensate you for the damage without the threat of punishment for it.
- Your non-liability liability
It is illegal for your employer to do anything to punish you for trying to assert your rights, such as threatening to report you to the immigration office or the police. If your employer threatens you all the time, get help immediately. Remember, your safety comes first!
- Right to pay
- You have the right to receive payment for all the work you have done to the same extent as American workers;
- You have the right to receive at least the minimum wage at the rate of $ 7,25 per hour to the same extent as American workers.
- The minimum established wage in the state in which you work. If this level is higher, you are eligible to receive this level of payment.
- Your contract with an employer, which may oblige your employer to pay a higher amount.
Most workers in the United States are entitled to receive overtime pay at the rate of 1,5 for each hour after 40 hours per week. For example, if your normal rate is $ 10 per hour, your employer must pay you $ 15 for every hour of work that exceeds the 40 hourly working week.
If your employer withdraws a portion of your paycheck, this is called a deduction or deduction. Such deductions are illegal if they lead to a reduction in the statutory wage level. For example, usually the employer cannot withhold part of the salary for providing housing (for some visa categories, housing should be provided free of charge), for uniform, protective equipment, or for the fact of hiring.
- Your right to be protected from discrimination
As an employee, you have the right to be treated equally by your employer, regardless of your gender, race, nationality, color, religion or disability.
Your employer must pay the same salary to each employee for the same job and provide every employee with equal opportunities for career growth, regardless of the employee’s gender, race, nationality, color, religion or disability.
Your employer cannot force you to speak at work only in English unless there is an important reason for this associated with the business.
- Your rights if you are a working woman
Your employer DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to treat you badly or not like other employees because of the fact that you are a woman or because of your pregnancy - this is gender discrimination. Regardless of whether you are a woman or a man, your employer DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to sexually harass you.
Your employer should never:
- demand sexual intercourse from you;
- pester you or
- say "grease" or insult you.
- Your right to a healthy and safe workplace
All workers are entitled to adequate sanitary standards and safe working conditions:
- Housing: If your employer provides housing, it must be clean and safe for living.
- Restrooms: Restrooms must be clean and accessible.
- Drinking water: If you work in agriculture, in most cases you are entitled to clean drinking water and water for washing your hands.
- Illnesses or injuries in the workplace: If you are injured or feel unwell at work, you have the right to receive medical care. In most cases, you will receive free medical care and that part of the salary that you lose during treatment.
If you work with or in close proximity to pesticides or hazardous chemicals:
- you have the right to wash your hands with clean water after handling pesticides or chemicals. You must be instructed in pesticide safety during the first 5 days of work;
- your employer should inform you of where and when the pesticides were sprayed to avoid accidental poisoning. Workers and others should not be in the area where pesticide treatment takes place;
- If you mix or spray pesticides, use protective equipment (such as coveralls, masks, respirators), which must be provided by your employer and kept in a clean and workable condition.
ATTENTION! Your employer cannot force you to do something or force you to go somewhere, even back to the country of your permanent residence, by keeping your wages.
- Cases requiring urgent medical care: If a situation requiring urgent medical attention arises, call 911 and call an ambulance.
- Your expenses can be paid, so you need to inform your employer as soon as possible so that he can fill out all the necessary documents for you.
- When visiting a doctor or being in the hospital, ask for copies of all documents related to your illness or injury.
- Your right to union membership and collective advocacy
Under federal law, with some exceptions, everyone working in the United States has the right to organize and belong to a union, regardless of its immigration status. Your employer cannot prevent you from doing so. This means that you have the right to:
- To unite with other workers in order to raise wages and improve working conditions;
- Attend rallies, marches and demonstrations;
- Become a member of a trade union or other workers' organizations.
- Your right to greater protection under state law
Call the hotline numbers listed in the memo to get information about organizations that can talk about your rights in the state where you work.
- Your right to leave a job where your rights are infringed.
You should not stay at work if your employer treats you badly.
If you came to the United States on a work visa and quit your job, then your visa status is no longer valid. However, depending on the type of your visa, you can either change its category or change your employer. You can also stay in the United States on a legal basis to defend your rights in court.
You can also file a formal complaint or legal action against your employer by continuing to work for it. There are tough sanctions against those employers who are trying to punish their employees for defending their rights.
If you have problems with your current employer, call the hotlines listed in the handout. They will connect you with a local organization that tells you about your rights and possible actions.
Human trafficking is one of the most serious violations of labor law that a person can face in the United States. Human trafficking implies situations where a person is hired, transported or held against his / her will for the purpose of exploitation. Below are some warning signs that may indicate human trafficking:
Threats and intimidation:
Employers and people helping employers can use threats or other intimidation techniques to make you or other workers afraid to leave the employer. For example:
- Beatings, physical or sexual abuse;
- Threats of beatings, physical abuse, or sexual abuse;
- An employee is locked in a room or otherwise restricted in his freedom;
- Threats of harm to the employee or his family if the employee tries to leave the employer, file a complaint / action against ill-treatment, inform the authorities or seek help;
- Threats to achieve deportation or arrest, or to give the police an attempt to resign, file a complaint / claim, inform the authorities or seek help in their position;
- The employer or person who has worked for the employer has harmed or threatened other employees who are trying to leave, complain, inform the authorities or ask for help; or threatened that if any of the workers tried to escape, they would be found and returned back.
Rules and methods of management: Employers and people helping employers can use management rules and methods to prevent workers from leaving them, filing a complaint / complaint about mistreatment, or seeking help. For example:
- Rules prohibiting leaving the workplace, or strict rules as to where you may be at work;
- Rules prohibiting you from carrying your own passport, visa, birth certificate or other identity documents;
- Restrictions on food, sleep, or medical care; or
- Hinder or restrict your free communication with your family, other workers, or other people outside the workplace.
Cheating: Employers and people helping employers can also use various forms of deception and lies. For example:
- False promises regarding working conditions, residence or salary;
- You are told that you have no rights;
- You are told that they will not believe you if you try to ask for help;
- You are instructed to provide false information about employers.
What should I do if this happens to me?
If any of the above points applies to you, or you are in a dangerous situation, immediately contact 911, the National Center for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (1-888-373-7888), or the Human Trafficking Hotline immediately. and on-site operations (1-888-428-7581). They can help you there by referring to the nearest organization to assist victims of trafficking in the region.
If you are in danger of physical danger, you should contact the police by calling 911.
If you call the police, tell them about the mistreatment you have been subjected to.
Will I be deported if I report violations?
There are programs to protect people who have reported such violations to the authorities. You should not be afraid to seek help, even if you have concerns about your immigration status. You should consult with an immigration attorney who does not work for your employer. By calling the Hotline, they can help you find such a lawyer.
If you believe that you have been a victim of human trafficking or another serious crime, including sexual violence, you may be eligible for another nonimmigrant visa, such as a T-visa (for victims of trafficking) or a U-visa (for victims of other serious crimes) . These visas are designed to provide protection to certain individuals affected by crime who are concerned about their immigration status. Many people do not know about the existence of these visas, and you can let people know about them to assist you.
What types of assistance can trafficked persons expect?
If you are a victim of human trafficking in the United States, you can get benefits, social benefits and protection from immigration laws, according to federal or state programs.
Many organizations can help you get these services, including medical care, psychological support, housing, dental care, immigration and other legal counsel, employment assistance, and social security benefits.
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