You need to know your rights
while working in the US

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

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Are you planning to work or study in the United States soon? We are confident that you will have a pleasant and rewarding stay, but during your time in the US we want you to be aware of your rights as a worker.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act, otherwise known as the Wilberforce Act, reaffirms and strengthens the US Government's commitment to fight human trafficking and labour abuses in all forms.

If you qualified for a non-immigrant visa in any of these categories -- J-1, H-2B, H-2A, H-1B, B-1 domestic employees, NATO-7, G-5 and A-3 -- you should have received a pamphlet from us regarding your rights in these employment and education-based categories. Even though you will be in the US only temporarily, you still have many basic workplace rights and protections.

Most importantly, the Wilberforce Act ensures that you, as a visa holder, have the right to:

* Be treated and paid fairly;

* Not be held in a job against your will;

* Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession;

* Report abuse without retaliation;

* Request help from unions, immigrants and labour rights groups and other groups; and

* Seek justice in US courts.

The 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released on June 20 by US Secretary of State John Kerry, was a reminder that human trafficking and labour abuses occur in every country, and every country faces challenges trying to combat these injustices. The Wilberforce Act is one of many anti-trafficking efforts that the US undertakes to identify and assist more victims, prosecute more suspected traffickers and prevent human trafficking from occurring in the first place.

What is human trafficking? It is a form of modern-day slavery where an employer or other individual, through physical or psychological abuse, causes an individual to feel that he or she is not free to leave the situation.

The Wilberforce Act addresses less extreme circumstances of victimisation as well. For example, if you are paid less than the legal minimum wage, made to work unpaid overtime or spoken to inappropriately, you have protections under the Act as this treatment is in violation of US workplace law.

If your rights or the rights of someone you know are being violated, seek help immediately. Contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 (open 24 hours a day). You can also contact the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line at 1-888-428-7581 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Eastern Time).

Enjoy these rights as well as your time working in the US.

You can find more information about how to travel to the US
on our website, Keep on top of Embassy news on our Facebook page, and by following USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment.

Send your questions to: editorial@jamaicaobserver. com and we will send them to the embassy.




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