New laws protecting immigrant workers in California
In keeping with Larry Itliong Day, this column will highlight the plight of immigrant workers and the new laws that were recently signed to protect them.
California lawmakers recognize that immigrant workers are vital to California’s economy. Immigrant workers are also the most frequent victims of wage theft and exposed to the greatest hazards at work. When they come forward to report unfair, unsafe, or illegal conditions, they face retaliation from the employer, often involving threats to contact the police or immigration enforcement agencies.
On January 1, 2014, it became unlawful for an employer to engage in unfair immigration-related practices against any employee in order to retaliate against the employee’s exercise of a protected right. “Unfair immigration-related practice” means any conduct undertaken for the retaliatory reasons such as threatening to file or filing a false police report, or threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities, among others. In addition, the employers’ attorneys are also prohibited from reporting or threatening to report suspected immigration status of employees or their witnesses (or family members) simply because these persons exercised their employment rights.
On October 5, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law certain provisions regulating immigration worksite enforcement actions. The highlights of the law include the following:
- Employers are prohibited from voluntarily allowing an immigration enforcement (ICE) agent entrance into any nonpublic areas of the workplace. Employers must ask for a judicial warrant before granting access to the workplace by ICE agents.
- Employers are prohibited from voluntarily allowing an ICE agent access, review, or acquisition of the employer’s employee records without a subpoena or judicial warrant. The employer is allowed to challenge the validity of a subpoena or judicial warrant in court.
- If a Notice of Inspection has been provided to the employer by an immigration agency for an inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms and other employment records, the employer must provide to each employee (and their representative) written notice within 72 hours of the employer receiving notice of immigration worksite enforcement action. This means if the employer received notice that ICE agents will be conducting a “workplace raid,” the employer must let its employees know within 72 hours of receiving the notice. Written notice shall also be given within 72 hours to the employee’s authorized representative, if any.
Violations of the above requirements would be punishable by a civil penalty of between $2,000 and $10,000 for each violation by the employer.
Though not related to employment, the Governor also signed what’s being nicknamed the “sanctuary state law,” which prohibits law enforcement authorities from asking about immigration status during routine interactions. Law enforcement also cannot unlawfully detain persons because of their immigration status. Furthermore, the law prohibits the commandeering of local officials to do the work of immigration agents.
As a matter of public policy, California’s laws regulating wages and working conditions apply to undocumented workers who are also entitled to the following rights: prevailing minimum wage; overtime pay for working more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week; meal breaks and rest breaks; safe and healthy work environment; protection against employer retaliation.
The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com or our Facebook page Joe Sayas Law. [C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is the recipient of PABA’s Community Champion Award for 2016.]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.