Disclosure & Your Rights in the Workplace

Many undocumented and DACAmented students wonder – do I have to discuss my immigration status with employers? The short answer – no. This choice is always yours to make, and I recommend making the choice that YOU are comfortable with. Just like in other areas of life, disclosure in the workplace comes with risks and benefits. Here’s some information that may help you in understanding your rights and whether or not you’d like to consider disclosure within the workplace.

First, let’s consider the hiring process.

If you are a DACA recipient: DACA recipients are not legally required to tell employers they have authorization to work via DACA and employers are not required to ask their job applicants or employees about their immigration status. Period.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the conversation. DACA recipients may face discrimination due to their status, or employers may not understand the process and paperwork involved. Knowing your rights around what employers can/cannot ask you and what the employment process is, will help in advocating for yourself without requiring you to disclose your DACA status (unless you choose to).

A few key things to know about DACA & employment:

  • DACA recipients with current, unexpired Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) are authorized for paid employment.
  • When you’re filling out an application and you are asked, “Are you eligible for employment” – if you have DACA, the answer is yes.
  • Once an employment offer is made, employers ask all new hires to complete a form called the I-9. The I-9 involves submitting documentation that verifies an employee’s identity and right to work in the United States. Your work permit satisfies the I-9 documentation requirement and an employer does not need to know how or why you’ve received the work permit.

If you are an undocumented individual: Employers may be legally obligated to turn down your application. This doesn’t mean you are fully without options though.

When filling out applications, employers may ask about your eligibility to work in the United States. If this question is not mandatory, you can opt to leave it blank. If it’s mandatory, you can try selecting “other” and then address the question again down the line when an offer is being made.

If you are in the interview stage, don’t reveal your status too early. First, focus on selling yourself and your skills. Once the employer is amazed with you and extends an offer, you may choose to discuss alternative options.

  • If the position is for an internship, you may ask to take the internship unpaid. This would allow you to gain experience while seeking other possible options for payment. For example, some schools and organizations have funds for students who accept unpaid internships. The organizations may not inquire about employment eligibility in the same way that an employer would need to.
  • If you are seeking full-time employment, you might consider talking with the employer about hiring you as an independent contractor. This could allow you to receive payment through an alternative (and legal) means.

When discussing alternative options and DACA-related eligibility with employers, know that you do not need to share more information with an employer than you are comfortable with.

However you decide to approach disclosure or requests for alternate employment options, I recommend preparing for the conversation just like you would prepare for an interview. Plan out your approach and responses to any potentially difficult questions. Determine exactly what you’d be comfortable with disclosing or not disclosing. That way, when the time comes, you’ll be ready.

Once you’ve been hired for a position, your coworkers, supervisors, and other leadership are not allowed to ask you about your immigration status. Even if you feel like the environment and your coworkers are safe and trusting, weigh the pros and cons of disclosing your status.

The important thing is that you are in control of whether you do or do not disclose.

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By Mary Malerba
Mary Malerba Assistant Director, Corporate Partner Relations Mary Malerba