A recent court decision underscored the fact that all workers in California are protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act regardless of their immigration status. A New York federal court ruled that immigration-related documents are not discoverable in wage and hour lawsuits because the documents are irrelevant. The judge also stated that requiring immigration documents in such a case could intimidate workers who wish to file complaints against their employers.
The case involved employer defendants who had asked the plaintiff employees to show several documents to the court to prove that they were legally permitted to work in the United States. The employers also requested that the workers confess to using fraudulent Social Security numbers. Because the workers were undocumented immigrants, the employers argued that they could not seek protection under the FLSA. Missing payroll documents could be explained by the workers’ immigration status, according to the employers.
Though immigration status is not relevant to wage and hour disputes, employers are still prohibited from knowingly hiring and retaining people who are not authorized to work in the U.S. Employers are responsible for verifying a person’s identity and work eligibility before employing them.
People who do not have legal permission to work in the United States may want to discuss their situation with an immigration attorney. Immigration laws are very complex, and there could be employment-related visas available that they were previously unaware of. An attorney may also be able to help a person who is outside of the U.S. and would like to enter the country on a work visa.