From construction sites and factories to offices and hospitals, immigrants are an important part of Washington’s labor force.
Unfortunately, immigrant workers often face unfair treatment by employers: even if they are U.S. citizens or have the legal right to work here. In 2020, state lawmakers updated the Washington Law Against Discrimination to include specific protections for workers from another country.
Protections under WLAD
WLAD had already prohibited employers from discriminating against employees based on their country of origin. However, the new law creates specific protections. Under WLAD, employers cannot use a worker’s national origin, immigration status or citizenship as a basis for:
- Hiring or promoting an employee
- Firing, demoting or laying off an employee
- Setting wages, offering bonuses or awarding other compensation
- Retaliating against or otherwise taking adverse actions against an employee
WLAD protections do not apply in cases where a worker is not eligible to work in the U.S. or cannot provide an employer with proof that they can legally work in the country.
Additionally, the law may not apply in the cases of specific types of employment. Examples include government jobs that require certain security clearance or public service programs reserved for U.S. citizens or those with special immigration status.
Discriminatory hiring or employment practices and workplace harassment can make it extremely difficult for immigrants to thrive in their chosen careers and support their families. Workers facing discrimination or unfair treatment based on their citizenship, residency status or birth country should know that the law may be able to help.