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Immigration Status Irrelevant in FLSA Case

Employees of a Chicago restaurant filed suit against their employer for overtime pay, but before trial the employees asked the court for an order to bar testimony regarding the employees’ immigration status.

May 12, 2006
Employees of a Chicago restaurant filed suit against their employer, Tim’s Time, for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Before trial, the employees asked the court for an order to bar Tim’s Time from offering or soliciting testimony in front of the jury regarding the employees’ immigration status. Such barred testimony would include questions about aliases, Social Security numbers and tax returns.

   Agreeing with the employees, the federal judge ruled: "The question of the plaintiffs’ immigration status is simply not relevant to their claim for overtime pay under the FLSA or to any defenses the defendants might assert to that claim; undocumented workers are ‘employees’ within the protection of the FLSA, every bit as much as documented workers are …."

   Additionally, allowing immigration status as evidence would "surely chill the vindication of rights under the FLSA," particularly in view of Congress’ intent to protect immigrant workers even if they are undocumented. Ponce v. Tim’s Time Inc., N.D. Ill., No. 03-6123 (3/16/06).

   Impact: Employers should be aware that even undocumented workers have rights and protections under a number of state and federal employment laws, such as the FLSA, OSHA and the NLRA, including the right to join unions.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Workforce Management, May 8, 2006, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!