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Protecting Immigrants from Document Abuse

Senate Bill 1001 is an immigration-related employment practices law that Governor Jerry Brown signed on September 30 this year. This bill addresses unfair employment practices with respect to demand for immigration documentation for employment. This change to the labor code strengthens worker protections against immigrant status discrimination. It is designed to address concerns voiced by various public policy groups that DACA program participants are being discriminated against when providing employment authorization documents (EAD).

Senate Bill 1001

Federal law requires specific documents to prove your right to lawfully work in the United States. Enforcing adherence to this practice is part of the new law SB 1001 created. This law deals with documentation for immigrants in the following ways.

  1. Employers may not demand more documents than federally required, or insist that you provide different documents that federal law does not call for.
  2. If you are an immigrant already employed, your employer cannot use unfair legal practices to re-verify or re-investigate your work authorization.
  3. Your potential employer cannot refuse your authentic EADs, claiming that they don't look genuine, when they clearly do.
  4. Employers may not refuse an EAD because of an approaching expiration date or based on your employment classification.

This law goes into effect next year on January 1. Employees and job applicants cannot file civil suit under the new law. But they can file a violations complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards. The penalties include fines of up to $10,000.

Immigrant Status Discrimination

Unfair labor practices through unreasonable documentation demands is a more subtle form of discrimination against immigrant workers. Though an individual has the documents required by Form I-9, an employer might demand additional documentation to harass or intimidate a foreign employee or to unlawfully bar him from working. This may also be the case when an employee presents his genuine EAD only to be told that it doesn't look authentic. In some cases, an employee may use these ploys to weed out applicants from specific countries due to their own personal bias. These unlawful practices might also be used to "vet" applicants for certain immigrant status classifications and the remaining term on their work approval status. Rejection of an applicant with a work visa that requires employer sponsorship is another way to discriminate against foreign employees.

As a legally authorized worker, you should not have to deal with unreasonable and unnecessary demands and unlawful hurdles to obtain employment. This law will help address some of these issues. If you need more information about obtaining legal status to live and work in California, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney. Your lawyer can familiarize you with some of your options, such as DACA, employment-based green cards, H-1B and other work visas.

Sources:

http://www.jr-alcorn.com/Immigration-Overview/I-9-Compliance.shtml, http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB1001, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/public-policy/hr-public-policy-issues/pages/gov.-jerry-brown-signs-a-plethora-of-california-workplace-bills-into-law-but-vetoes-a-major-one.aspx

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber