What Does the Federal “Deferred Action” Program Mean for California Employees?

Noncitizen workers are some of the most vulnerable employees in the U.S. Whether they are undocumented employees or in the country on a work visa, these people are often essentially held hostage by their employers. Unscrupulous businesses will readily hold the threat of being reported to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over noncitizens’ heads. 

As such, many of these workers accept less than the minimum wage and other serious employment rights violations by their employers. However, a new program announced by the federal government may change this. Known as the “deferred action” program, it could offer protections to California noncitizen workers who report unlawful and abusive working conditions.

The Impact of Deferred Action for Immigrant Employees

DHS has officially announced a new, streamlined deferred action program to protect noncitizen workers involved in labor investigations. The program permits noncitizen employees to submit requests for work permits and two years’ protection from deportation if they can demonstrate they’re involved in an investigation. In other words, noncitizens can request that DHS defer action on their immigration status for up to two years, allowing them time to find a new sponsor or receive their citizenship. 

While DHS has previously permitted these requests, the process was more demanding. Now, workers can submit a streamlined request through the DHS’ central intake point. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Immigrant employees whose appeals are approved will not be at risk of deportation due to their employers’ attempts at unlawful retaliation.

How Deferring Action Can Help You Protect Your Job

If you are a noncitizen worker in California, you are protected by the same employment rights laws as U.S. citizens. Regardless of what your employer may claim, you are still owed the minimum wage, overtime, safe working conditions, breaks, and more. If you are not receiving these benefits, the deferral program may allow you to hold your employer accountable without risking deportation. 

Under state and federal whistleblower laws, your employer cannot fire you, cut your hours, or otherwise retaliate against you for reporting labor condition violations. However, this alone does not protect you from deportation. However, if you receive deferred action, DHS will not deport you for at least two years, protecting your job and your presence in the U.S. As such, the new program allows you to report your employer with less fear. 

Consult Expert Attorneys About Fair Employment in California

The deferred action program is an invaluable step toward stronger protection for foreign national workers in the U.S. If your employer isn’t treating you fairly as a noncitizen, you now have more options to hold them accountable for their actions. You can learn more about your options for fighting back against workers’ rights violations by scheduling your consultation with the skilled employment attorneys at Alexander Morrison + Fehr LLP today.