A recent California Supreme Court decision is being both lauded and criticized for extending rights to undocumented workers. The recent decision gives legal protection to immigrant workers who have suffered from illegal discrimination or pay violations, even for those who have illegally used fake documentation or falsified Social Security numbers to obtain employment. Though advocates for worker rights see the case as a breakthrough, it may not be fully exercised, as many immigrant workers are likely to fear bringing a discrimination lawsuit against an employer. For these workers, revealing illegal documentation may be a deterrent for filing a lawsuit, even if they do have legal rights against discrimination.
Though immigrants may not be willing to bring lawsuits, the Supreme Court decision could prevent future employers from taking advantage of those workers who do not have green cards. Our employment law attorneys in Orange County are committed to protecting the rights of workers. If you believe you have suffered from discrimination, we will take the time to review the facts of your case, identify your legal options, and pursue your rights. Discrimination in California is illegal and all workers have the right to pursue legal action against their employers.
One of the concerns with undocumented workers is that they will be exploited and that employers will never be held accountable for illegal activity. This decision helps to protect workers and can prevent future abuse by making lawsuits tenable. Some employers have denied pay and abused immigrant workers because they know the workers will not file a suit. Now, this may not be the case. The decision and current position of the law aims to prevent abuses and to give undocumented workers leverage against employers.
According to an L.A. Times report, the plaintiff-worker filed a lawsuit against a former employer who failed to accommodate his disability and rehire him after suffered a back injury on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The defendant-employer was able to get the lawsuit dismissed after it was discovered that the worker had used a falsified Social Security number to apply for the job. Though an appeals court upheld a dismissal, the Supreme Court overturned the decision, citing a 2002 state law that protects workers regardless of immigration status.
All workers in California have the right to sue for lost wages, up until the time an employer discovered that the employee was barred from working under federal immigration law. Though federal laws does prohibit the falsified use of Social Security cards, the law does not protect an employer from paying rightful wages earned during that time. In short, the federal law does not ban employers from paying undocumented workers.
In the state of California, there are an estimated 2.6 million immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally, making up 7% of the population. Reports also estimate that one in 10 workers in California do not have proper documentation. Though the worker in this case did not have a Social Security number, it is unclear whether he entered the state illegally. The plaintiff in this case was supported by advocacy groups, including Legal Aid. Giving employees the right to sue prevents employers from hiring and exploiting workers.
Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.
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