New NJ bill passed protecting employees from having their immigration status disclosed

New NJ bill passed protecting employees from having their immigration status disclosed

Photo: Allyssa Bovasso-Pignataro

Immigrant workers in New Jersey, especially those who are undocumented, do not need to hold their tongues about unfair or unsafe working conditions under a new bill that passed both houses last week. 

Under federal law, undocumented workers in the state have most of the same rights as U.S. citizens such as minimum wage, tips, breaks and overtime, according to Legal Aid at Work, but their status can make it difficult for them to stand up for themselves when they are treated unfairly in the workplace.

New Jersey is home to about 2 million residents born outside of the U.S., and 440,000 of those are undocumented, according to the Migration Poicy Institute

The bill (S2869), introduced in March of this year, establishes penalties for employers who threaten to disclose or disclose an employee’s immigration status in order to conceal violations of State wage, benefit or tax laws, according to the New Jersey Legislature

The bill was sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), Senator Angela V. Mcknight (D-Hudson), Assemblywoman Alixon Collazos-Gill (D-Essex), Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union), Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex) and co-sponsored by many others in both houses. 

“All employees, regardless of immigration status, deserve the right to a safe and fair work environment,” said Senator McKnight (D-Hudson) in a statement. “This bill will discourage businesses from behaving unethically and will impose penalties for those found to have violated the law.”

If the New Jersey Labor and Workforce Development (NJLWD) discovers that a business discloses or threatens to disclose information about an employee’s immigration status for the purpose of hiding unfair or unsafe working conditions, they will be subject to a fine, in addition to other penalties if applicable. For a first offense, they will be fined up to $1,000, up to $5,000 for a second offense, and up to $10,000 for a third offense. 

When deciding how much an employer is fined for such actions, the commissioner must consider factors such as the history, if any, of previous violations by the employer, the severity of the violation, “the good faith” of the employer and the size of the employer’s business, according to the NJLWD. 

The money that is collected from these fines will be put toward enforcement and administrative costs of the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance, a branch of the NJLWD.

The bill passed 70-4-3.

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