Protecting immigrant employees’ rights in today’s politics
The current political environment has disturbed many immigrants. The administration has touted that immigration laws will strictly be enforced, with tough talk on rounding up immigrants for deportation. This has sowed fear and confusion among immigrants, especially the undocumented. Immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to threats as many employers exploit immigrant workers for cheap labor.
Let us clear up the noise from Washington that scares immigrant workers. Make no mistake about it. California laws protect all workers – both the documented and undocumented. These laws remain applicable, and enforceable in the courts.
All workers, regardless of immigration status, have the right to the prevailing minimum wage, overtime pay for working more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week, meal breaks and rest breaks, a safe and healthy work environment, and protection against employer retaliation. California law specifically provides that in enforcing state labor and employment laws, a person’s immigration status is irrelevant to the issue of employer liability.
However, employer retaliation using immigration status as a weapon is a reality that needs to be dealt with. That is why in 2013, California enacted a law that made employer threats of deportation illegal. It is illegal for an employer (and their attorneys) to threaten to contact immigration authorities for the purpose of retaliating against an employee’s exercise of a legal right, such as claiming overtime wages or reporting safety violations at work. Employees who suffer from an unfair immigration-related practice are entitled to recover damages and penalties. The employer may also be liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.
It is also unlawful for an employer, in the course of satisfying its immigration-related obligations under the law, to do any of the following to its employees:
(1) Request more or different documents than are required under the law.
(2) Refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine.
(3) Refuse to honor documents or work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work.
(4) Attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.
Throughout these years, our law firm fought to protect the rights of immigrants, whether they be documented or undocumented. An employee is entitled to be paid correctly for all hours worked, and to work in a safe, non-discriminatory environment, regardless of their immigration status.
Those who believe that they are not compensated fully or discriminated against by virtue of their disability, race or gender, do not have to suffer in silence. Confidential consultations with experienced employment attorneys are available at no cost to these workers. They should not be intimidated by threats or even by a self-imposed fear of deportation.
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. [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.]