By Kiley Morrow
Three top leaders working for an Asian American advocacy group quit their positions in protest last month against the organization that fired 19 fellow coworkers.
These included civic teachers who were helping with immigrant youth mentoring and in-language legal help. This organization not only provided education, but was also one of the largest Asian American organizations advocating for Asian Americans to exercise their rights as citizens.
Asian Americans have been part of the American labor force for a long time. In fact, they had a very crucial role in developing the America that is today. But things weren’t always as peachy.
Back then, Asian Americans took low-paying service jobs—salaries that were significantly lower than that of their white counterparts. Despite unique histories, cultures, and languages, all Asian Americans were lumped together into one group by schools and society.
However, things changed for the better. Between 1960 to 1980, Asian Americans saw an improvement in wages largely due to the anti-Asian discrimination laws. Asian American workers, particularly Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos, had labor unions and carried out work strikes to protest unfair wages.
Beyond the 1980s, we would begin to see Asian Americans separated by two groups: those working in high status, high-paying jobs, and those in low-paying, low status jobs. Today, Asian Americans hold positions that weren’t available to them before—industries like computer engineering, legal and financial, health care, and education.
Despite the success in the workforce, some Asian Americans are still not fully knowledgeable about their rights as workers. In fact, some encounter disorganization within their own groups due to a lack of financial support.
Here are the basic workers’ rights you should know about.
You are entitled to an accident pay
This refers to the amount you are paid when you get into an accident at work. If you get confined or disabled because of that accident, you will be paid for the days where you missed work as well.
Sue only when appropriate
You have the right to sue your employer if your legal counsel suggests that you do. But if you receive any form of compensation or appeal for a claim, it may weaken your case.
Undocumented workers have rights, too
If you are an undocumented Asian American, you still have certain rights. For example, you are entitled to the wages owed to you by your employer.
Your immigration status is irrelevant when you file a wage claim.
Undocumented worker’s compensation
Depending on what state you are working in, you may be eligible to receive worker’s compensation — even if you are undocumented. If you get into an accident and you need medical treatment, your employer would need to pay for that. However, you may not be eligible for job retraining. If your employer uses your status as a way to prevent you from filing a claim, you should hire a lawyer.
Discrimination is a no-no
Whether or not you have legal authorization to work, you have protection against discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate against workers by refusing to hire you, fire you, or harass you. This is against the law and you have the right to file a claim if losses were incurred during the time you were discriminated against.