Companies throughout California rely on undocumented workers to perform agricultural labor, construction work, cleaning services and many other forms of work. Far too often, these employers try to take advantage of their workers by stealing their hard-earned wages or overtime pay and threatening to report the worker to the authorities if they complain. Fortunately, if you are an undocumented worker, you have the right to report employment law violations without fear of deportation.
Workers have the right to fair wages
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 makes it illegal for companies to hire undocumented immigrants knowingly. Some employers ignore this law, choosing to pay their undocumented workers under the table. Others hire undocumented immigrants without realizing it at first. Neither situation gives an employer the right to withhold fair wages from you.
California has laws that protect the rights of all workers – including those who do not have permanent legal status as immigrants in the United States. Even if you are here without the proper documents, it is against the law for your employer to pay you less than the minimum wage or to refuse to pay you overtime.
Reporting to ICE is illegal, but it still happens
Retaliation is when an employer punishes a worker for reporting legal violations. One of the most common forms of retaliation against undocumented workers is to report them to U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement (ICE). Although this is against the law, an angry supervisor might still lash out at a worker who is trying to obtain their unpaid wages.
How workers can protect their rights
The authority that enforces California employment laws is the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or DLSE. Any undocumented immigrant has the right to file a wage and hour complaint with the DLSE and the department will not investigate their immigration status. Even if an employer has already reported a worker to ICE or another authority, seeking legal help can delay or prevent removal proceedings.