December 2, 2017 Category: Uncategorized
The federal government is attempting to strip the rights of immigrants across the country. At the same time, some states, including California, are ramping up efforts to protect them. According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants make up a quarter of California’s population and more than a third of the workforce. These workers are vital to California’s workforce and economy. Without them, California would face an economic disaster and potential collapse. In 2018, immigrants and undocumented workers in California can breathe a little bit easier at work. Under a new law, employers cannot voluntarily disclose employment records that may disclose sensitive immigration issues.
Immigration and Employment Protections
Current California law provides some protections for immigrant workers in the state. As it currently stands, California law prohibits employers from engaging in, or having another person engage in, unfair immigration-related practices. What are unfair immigration-related practices? California law currently defines these practices to include:
- Requesting more or different documents than required by Federal I-9 forms;
- Refusing to honor seemingly-legitimate documents provided to verify a worker’s identity;
- Abusing the federal E-Verify system to check an applicant or employee’s employment status;
- Threatening to contact immigration without cause;
- Filing or threatening to file a false police report against an employee; and
- Filing or threatening to file a false immigration report against an employee.
This offers a baseline of protection for immigrant workers in California. However, the protections offered by the current law are vague and easily manipulated.
Employers Cannot Volunteer Employee Records
California Bill AB-450 amends current law to add protections for immigrant workers in California. Under the new law, employers may not provide “voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent to enter any nonpublic areas of a place of labor” unless the agent has a judicial warrant.
This means that an employer with immigrants or undocumented workers cannot allow an immigration agent to “access, review, or obtain” an employee’s employment record without a warrant. The only exception to this would be Federal I-9 forms completed prior to getting hired.
What happens when immigration enforcement agents do inspect federal forms that do not require a warrant? In these situations, employers must notify their employees within a reasonable amount of time. Specifically, employers must provide notice to affected employees within 72 hours of the inspection. Employees can also request to receive a copy of the Notice of Inspection.
What Happens If an Employer Violates the New Law?
Either the Labor Commissioner or the Attorney General can prosecute employers who violate the new law. Penalties for volunteering sensitive employment-related documents can include substantial fines. In some cases, employers may be required to pay up to $10,000 in fines. Any penalties that are recovered by the state will be deposited in the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund. These funds will be used to combat future employment violations.
What Does This Mean for California’s Immigrants and Undocumented Workers?
New federal regulations are being proposed to limit the rights of immigrants across the country. Under California’s new law, immigrant workers in California will be protected from baseless searches that violate their rights. Employers will be prohibited from voluntarily complying with most unwarranted requests from immigration officials. This means that sensitive immigration issues that may be contained in private employment records cannot be found without reasonable cause. This is not to say, however, that a cursory review of Federal I-9 documents cannot be used to get a warrant for other employment records. However, the new law adds a layer of protection and shields workers from being sold out to immigration by their employer.
Employees are currently protected from “unfair immigration-related practices” in the workplace. California is working to improve these rights and provide one-third of the workforce with protections. As a worker in California, regardless of your immigration status, is it important to be aware of your rights in the workplace. Employers are held to a high standard and can be held legally responsible if they infringe an employee’s rights.
For more information about your rights as an immigrant or undocumented worker in California call the Briski Law Firm. Our workplace discrimination attorneys would be happy to review your situation and explain your rights under California law. As an employee in California you are afforded certain rights. If we believe that you have been the victim of unfair employment practices we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our experienced legal team. We would be happy to discuss your situation and explain your rights as an employee in California.