The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided Arias v. Raimondo, a very important case seriously affecting the ability of immigrants to use the federal courts to enforce employment laws. When an employee complained of employer practices and sought to work elsewhere, the employer threatened to turn the employee over to ICE if he took other work. Then, when the worker sued, the employer’s attorney arranged
with ICE for the worker to be picked up when he appeared for his deposition. The employee sued the employer’s attorney, individually, for retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employer’s attorney defended on the grounds that he had never employed the worker, and therefore was not subject to suit for retaliation under the FLSA. The 9th Circuit disagreed, finding that the attorney could be held responsible and sending a warning shot across the bow of any defense attorney inclined to deny workers a remedy for unpaid wages by exploiting the worker’s immigration status.
If we cannot keep the courts open to claims by unauthorized workers that their rights are being violated, all workers will lose basic protections since the floor under all workers would be eroded. Congratulations to the Ninth Circuit for a great decision.