Recently, I had the opportunity to see Rags, a new revival now running at the classic Goodspeed Opera House.
I don’t often do theater reviews on this site, but I give it a thumbs up.
The musical tells the story of Jewish immigrants coming to the Lower East Side just after the turn of the century.
They experience outright discrimination and difficult working conditions.
So much so, that they end up even participating in a labor strike asking for better working conditions.
Of course, as an employment lawyer, I’m always looking for a good story to relate.
The musical obviously has undertones of today’s political environment, where refugees are facing barriers to entry from certain countries.
Workplace laws actually limit what employers should be asking in the interview process about immigration status. And even when a Form I-9 is being process, an employer cannot reject valid documents or insist on additional documentation too.
And it can’t target certain people either.
The EEOC recaps it here:
For example, an employer cannot require only those who the employer perceives as “foreign” to produce specific documents, such as Permanent Resident (“green”) cards or Employment Authorization Documents. Employees are allowed to choose which documents to show for employment eligibility verification from the Form I-9 Lists of Acceptable Documents. Employers should accept any unexpired document from the Lists of Acceptable Documents so long as the document appears reasonably genuine on its face and relates to the employee.
Federal law also prohibits employers from conducting the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes before the employee has accepted an offer of employment.
According to the EEOC, “applicants may be informed of these requirements in the pre-employment setting by adding the following statement on the employment application”:
In compliance with federal law, all persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and to complete the required employment eligibility verification form upon hire.”
I’ve always been a fan of learning from history. With a musical like Rags, you can get many employment law lessons in one.
Probably not the endorsement you will see from other theater critics, but you work with what you have.