Employees who are here in this country without immigration documentation often endure horrible work environments. Often, their employers are breaking the law by hiring them, and their employers often continue to break the law by failing to follow most employment laws. Some examples of typical actions taken by employers who hire undocumented workers include: failing to pay a minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, paying the employee cash “under the table” and neglecting to report the money to the IRS or the Social Security Administration, providing a hostile work environment, failing to give employees unpaid time off for medical issues, failing to sign up for workers’ compensation, and many more.
Employers who choose to hire individuals who are not in the U.S. legally know that in most cases, the employees will not report those illegal actions for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason employees choose not to report the illegal behavior is a fear of being deported. The workers also may not know or understand their rights. There may be a language barrier that prevents them from talking to the appropriate authorities. The employee may have lied to the employer about his or her work status, making him or her fearful of complaining about the working conditions.
However, just because a person is in the U.S. illegally does not mean that an employer can choose to ignore employment laws which provide employees with legal rights. The California Supreme Court recently ruled that an undocumented worker can sue his or her employer for disability discrimination. In that case, an undocumented worker applied for a job at a pool manufacturer and provided a false Social Security number and false immigration papers. The man was hired and worked seasonally for the employer for several years. During that time, he hurt his back and filed workers’ compensation claims. He later sued the company for disability discrimination, and revealed that he was in the country illegally. The company filed to dismiss the suit, claiming that because the man lied about his legal status to the employer, and because the company wouldn’t have hired him had it known about his immigration status, the lawsuit should be dismissed.
The California Supreme Court ruled that all employees are entitled to the protections of state labor, employment, and civil rights laws regardless of their immigration status. The Court did rule, however, that an employee who lied about his or her eligibility to work in the United States would have his or her damages limited. An employee who lied under those circumstances would not be eligible for some back pay, or rehiring or promotion.
Therefore, if you are in the country illegally and you feel that your employer is violating your legal rights, you have the right to sue your employer. This could include discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or pregnancy, among other things. Your employer may also have failed to appropriately pay you, given you the appropriate sick leave to which you are entitled, or to provide you with a safe work environment. You can also file a complaint with the appropriate federal or state agency.
If you are an undocumented worker and you believe your legal rights are being violated by your employer, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that a person should be fairly treated in the workplace regardless of immigration status. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco area and you need to speak with an employment attorney, call Liberty Law today.