Immigrant & Refugee Rights (IRR) Project

Matthew K. Handley Acting Project Director  
Evelyn Nunez


Established in 1978, the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (IRR Project) has served as a critical resource for some of the most vulnerable populations in the Washington, D.C. area: newcomers and non-English speakers who are often unaware of their rights and protections under U.S. law.

Many immigrants fear the repercussions of reporting civil rights violations, and suffer employment discrimination, wage theft, and sexual harassment in the workplace under the threat of being fired or reported to immigration authorities. To help mitigate their exploitation and marginalization, the IRR Project represents hundreds of immigrant workers who face discrimination on the basis of national origin, language fluency, legal status, race, and other grounds.

IRR ClientThe IRR Project often works with its clients to file charges of discrimination with the EEOC or local agencies, such as the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. The Project staff pursues litigation in both the EEOC and federal courts on behalf of immigrants, and provides representation in a range of issues, including: discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, medical care and government services; sexual assault and/or abuse by employers; and loan mortgage modification scams. In cases where clients have been victims of crimes, the IRR Project staff continues to work with the EEOC and other agencies to help procure U-Visas so that the clients can prosecute the criminal bad actors who abused them.

The IRR Project aims to make its clients whole for the wages that they were owed, or
the abuse that they suffered. In addition, its litigation helps to educate employers about their need to comply with local and federal laws regardless of the immigration status of the employee, and creates injunctive relief to prevent future bad practices.

Project Activities

  • Legal representation – As a direct response to civil rights violations, the IRR Project collaborates with various local law firms to provide pro bono legal representation to immigrants suffering discrimination in employment, housing and other aspects of their daily lives.
  • Community Outreach – To prevent further exploitation and abuse of immigrants and refugees, the IRR Project partners with community-based organizations to raise greater awareness of housing and employment rights among immigrant groups. The Project staff provides “Know Your Rights” presentations at various community centers in the D.C. area, and encourages victims of discrimination and harassment to report any of these violations to the authorities.
  • Investigative Reports – In addition to its advocacy and outreach efforts among immigrant communities, the IRR Project works to educate the greater non-immigrant population about the discriminatory treatment of immigrants and refugees in the D.C. area. To this end, the IRR Project has published a series of reports investigating the problems of discrimination and marginalization faced by immigrant communities in the D.C. area.


[ Español ]

You Have The Right To Be Paid For Your Work

If you did the work, your employer must pay you regardless of your immigration status.

You Have The Right To Be Paid The Minimum Wage

  • The minimum wage in Washington, D.C. is $12.50/hour
  • The minimum wage in Maryland is $8.75/hour
  • The minimum wage in Virginia is $7.25/hour
  • Exceptions: Employers don’t have to pay the minimum wage if the employee receives tips or if he/she is a farm worker.

You Have The Right To Receive Overtime

  • Generally, the federal and local laws mandate that an employer pay an employee overtime if the employee works more than 40 hours in one week.
  • Note: Some employers assume that if they pay a salary or by project, they can avoid paying overtime. Call us if you’re working more than 40 hours in one week.
  • Overtime should be paid at the rate of 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. For example, if your employer normally pays you $10/hour, your overtime rate would be $15/hour. If you work 50 hours per week, you would earn ($10 x 40 hours) + ($15 x 10 hours) = $550 per week for 50 hours.

Time That You Spend Waiting For Your Employer – Do You Have To Be Paid For That?

  • If an employee is required to arrive at a worksite at a specific time but he/she has to wait until he/she can begin working, he/she should be paid for this waiting time.
  • Exception: If an employee has the option to stay and wait or to leave before receiving an assignment, the employer generally does not have to pay for that waiting time.

You Have The Right To Be Paid

  • Generally, employees must be paid every two weeks.
  • If an employee is fired from work, he/she must be paid shortly thereafter, but it depends on the jurisdiction to determine whether he/she must be paid on the same day that he is fired, the next day, or the next pay day. Please contact us with inquiries.
  • If an employee quits, he/she generally must be paid the next regular pay day or before seven days depending on the jurisdiction.

Unlawful Deductions

  • Generally, employers may not make deductions that decrease an employee’s wages below the minimum wage.
  • Deductions, if permitted and authorized, by the employee might be lawful.
  • Transportation: Generally, if an employer transports an employee for the benefit of the employer, the employer may not deduct the transportation costs.
  • Tools: An employer may not deduct the cost of tools from an employee’s wages. An employer may not deduct the cost of safety equipment if the equipment is necessary in order to abide with OSHA.
  • Uniforms: An employer may not collect the cost for uniforms if wearing the uniform is required by law or required by the employer.

General Employment Law Sites — join the employment practice area
Employment Law Case Reports (Clearinghouse)
Government Accountability Project -legal center for government whistleblowers
National Employment Lawyers Association – NELA
National Employee Rights Institute – Workplace Fairness
“Overview of Employment Law (Cornell)”:


Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
–> An article on Congress Woman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s advocacy for workers rights.
D.C. Council Page – Legislation, Contact Info
Elected Officials in DC
ANC Chairpersons
D.C. Government
D.C. Department of Employment Services
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Bazelon Center’s ADA Site focus on mental disabilities
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Public Employees Relations Board
Workers’ Compensation
D.C. Public Schools Employees – Human Resources


D.C. Office of Human Rights
EEOC Home Page
–>EEOC Poster
–>EEOC Aviso En Español
Employment Discrimination
Federal Employees’ EEO Complaint Processing Information
Filing a Charge
Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices

Equal Pay

Equal Pay Act

Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)

D.C. Office of Human Rights
Department of Labor Info on FMLA
National Partnership for Women & Families FMLA Page

Federal Contractors

Davis-Bacon (construction) and Related Acts
–>Davis-Bacon Poster
Office of Federal Contract Compliance (U.S. Department of Labor)
The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act
–>Service Contract Act Poster

Federal Employees

EEOC: Basic Information About Federal Discrimination Complaints
Merit Systems Protection Board
Retirement Information: OPM
Unemployment Compensation
U.S. Government Manual – lists all federal agencies and contacts
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Maryland Corporate Information Search
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U.S. DOL – Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
Women and Pensions: What Women Need to Know and Do

Safety & Health

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Center to Protect Workers’ Rights – Hazard Alerts
Cornell’s U.S. Workplace Safety and Health Law
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health


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Tax Help for Low-Income People, Call (800) 829-1040.

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IGC: LaborNet

Wages & Hours

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Minimum Wage Laws in the States
U.S. Department of Labor: Wage & Hour Division
–>Minimum Wage Poster
–>Timesheet Application: An app for employees to independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed/Una aplicación que permite a los empleados capturar independientemente las horas trabajadas y determinar el pago que deben recibir. 

Welfate to Work

D.C. Department of Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor Welfare to Work

Workers' Compensation

AFL-CIO Hurt on the Job
D.C. Workers’ Compensation (private sector)
Maryland Workers’ Compensation Information
U.S. Workers Compensation Law (federal workers – Cornell)

Materiales en Español

Departamento de Trabajo
AFL-CIO en Español
EEOC Aviso (Discriminacion)
FMLA Aviso
Usted Tiene El Derecho A Trabajar
Protección para Empleados Contra Abusos del Examen Poligráfico (Aviso)
Voting & Elections in D.C. – info in Spanish

OSHA en Español

Other Helpful Tools

Reverse Phone Number Lookup – When you know a phone number, this tool may be able to match up a name or address with it.
White Pages – People Search – People S – the Superpages is one of the more up-to-date people searchers on the internet.
Yellow Pages – Superpages for business information.
Zip Code Look Up

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