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San Diego Immigration Lawyer – Rights of undocumented and illegal immigrants in work place

Recently we have been getting calls from undocumented immigrants suffering from abuse by their employers. Some US employers think that just because a person has no status, that person has no rights. Well they are wrong! The main focus of this article is the rights of undocumented and illegal immigrants in work place.

Contrary to widespread misconception, illegal and undocumented aliens in California are protected from unfair and illegal practices in the work place. Attorney Habib Hasbini from our office specializes in representing and advocating the legal rights of undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens in work place.

The issue of undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens in the work place has been on the rise recently. Various cases in California have been developing and evolving that provide protection for undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens in the work place and establish their right to sue for damages for harassment, discrimination, and establish their right to be compensated for overtime wages and breaks.

California State prides itself on its liberal policies as well as the protections it affords employees against harassment and discrimination regardless of immigration status and insures a discrimination-free environment for all workers regardless of immigration status. Under California Law, undocumented aliens and illegal workers are entitled to all protections allowed under the law including damages resulting from discrimination and harassment in the work place, back pay, emotional distress, and punitive damages. Murillo v. Rite Stuff Foods, Inc. (1998) 65 Cal. App. 4th 833.

In an effort to avoid the Hoffman ruling (denying back pay to undocumented immigrants), California Labor Code section 1171.5 was passed to assure undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens all protections allowed under State law. Labor Code section 1171.5 provides, in pertinent part, as follows: all protections, rights, and remedies available under state law, except any reinstatement remedy prohibited by federal law, are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or who have been employed, in this state. Further, Labor Code section 1171.5 provides that for purposes of enforcing state labor and employment laws, a person’s immigration status is irrelevant to the issue of liability, and in proceedings or discovery undertaken to enforce those state laws no inquiry shall be permitted into a person’s immigration status.

California precedent further assured undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens protection from discrimination and harassment in the work place. The employment discrimination statutes apply to undocumented alien employees notwithstanding the illegality of employing them. Murillo v. Rite Stuff Foods, Inc. (1998) 65 Cal. App. 4th 833. In a civil action under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 12900 et seq., an injured employee is entitled to all relief generally available in non-contractual actions, including punitive damages. Id. Employment discrimination, particularly that involving sexual harassment, can cause emotional distress and that such distress is compensable under traditional theories of tort law. Id. Compensable emotional distress runs the full gamut of intangible mental suffering, including fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, mortification, shock, humiliation, indignity, embarrassment, apprehension, terror or ordeal. Id.

Further, Hernandez v. Paicius (2003) 109 Cal. App. 4th 452 allowed undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens to seek damages for unpaid overtime wages, minimum wages, and meal and rest periods violations.

Further, Farmers Bros. Coffee v. WCAB (2005) 133 Cal. App. 4th 533 allowed
undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens to be covered under workers’ compensation state laws. Thus, if an illegal alien or undocumented immigrant incurs a work-related injury, he or she will be entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim against the employer and get the necessary treatment.

If you feel you were subject to discrimination or harassment in the work place, or denied wages including overtime, minimum wages, and meal and rest breaks, or if you feel you were wrongfully terminated, please do not hesitate to contact us. We assure you competent, zealous, and excellent representation in a court of law.