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Governor Jerry Brown previously signed a bill that prohibits California employers from using workers’ immigration status against them in an effort to cheat them out of pay they have earned and/or to otherwise compromise their rights.
Providing immigrant workers with new protections, this law specifically made it illegal for California employers to report – or to threaten to report – workers’ immigration status if or when workers have spoken up (or are planning to complain) about:
- Unsafe working conditions and/or employers’ failures to abide by OSHA standards
- Employers’ failure to pay minimum wages and/or overtime
- Employers’ failures to provide the legally required rest and meal breaks
- Sexual harassment or any type of workplace discrimination
- Employers’ other illegal activities.
Earlier this month, Governor Brown signed another law1 that provides immigrants with additional protections from employer retaliation. This new law targets abuse of E-Verify, a federal program that allows employers to determine if their workers are authorized to work in the United States. Under this new law, employers can no longer use E-Verify to check the work eligibility status of their existing employees.
The sponsor of the bill, California Assembly member Roger Hernandez, commented that this new law “is an overdue bill to protect immigrants in California.” As Mr. Hernandez explained, E-Verify should not be used on prospective job applicants and existing workers by “unscrupulous employers.”
The Plight of Immigrant Workers: How Often Their Rights Are Compromised by Employers
One of the main reasons that these laws are so important is that California employers are violating immigrant workers’ rights all-too-often, as some recent studies have reported. In fact, according to a 2013 study conducted by the National Employment Law Project:
- About 10 percent of California workers are undocumented immigrants.
- Most of these undocumented immigrant workers are employed in low-wage, hard-labor jobs where workplace safety standards are commonly overlooked.
- Close to 30 percent of those killed in industrial workplace accidents are immigrant workers.
- More than 3 in every 4 immigrant workers have worked without pay (i.e., worked “off of the clock).
- About 85 percent of immigrant workers do not (or have not) received overtime pay for the overtime they have worked.
As the study’s authors have noted:
California can create a real, effective, pro-immigrant worker agenda to ensure that workers can speak up about labor abuses, now and in the future. We must learn from worker experiences and the failed policies of the past… Such protections will benefit all workers by raising workplace standards and removing rewards for employers who abuse workers for their own gain.
Impacts of the New Law: Potential Penalties for Employers & Benefits for Workers
According to both of the laws discussed above, employers that use workers’ immigration status as leverage to prevent workers’ from exercising their rights can be fined as much as $10,000 per incident.
For immigrant workers, the hope is that this law will help them enjoy and protect the rights they have as employees working in California, and that they will not be afraid to speak up and hold employers accountable for violating those rights.
Contact a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP
If your employer has violated your rights or retaliated against you for trying to assert your rights, contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP for experienced help and superior representation. At Broslavsky & Weinman, our attorneys are committed to protecting our clients’ rights and interests while providing them with the highest quality legal services as we bring their cases to the best possible resolution.
To find out more about your rights and options for proceeding, contact us today to set up a free initial consult with one of our lawyers. Schedule this meeting by calling (310) 575-2550 or by emailing us using the contact form on this page.
1: Signing of AB 622