August 13, 2015

Undocumented Workers Entitled to Same Protections as Legal Workers

A recent decision by a United States District Court for the Southern District of New York confirms that undocumented workers are entitled to the same benefits as regular citizens under fair labor and New York Labor laws. The decision applies to a variety of work situations, including coverage under workers’ compensation laws and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ruling, the fact that the worker may not be legally working in this country does not affect the benefits or protections available to those who are working legally. 

The suit was brought by several restaurant workers who filed a claim against their employer for non-payment of overtime and other pay.  In an effort to dissuade the claimants from pursuing the claim, the restaurant requested immigration and work authorization documents.  The court ruled against the defendant’s request of the workers, stating that “the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (and the New York Labor Law) are available to citizens and undocumented workers alike.” The court rationalized  that the law protects all workers so as to ensure that no one is underpaid.

Employers should be cognizant of this ruling when dealing with their employees in order to avoid any potential violations of state or federal regulations. If you’d like to get more information regarding workers compensation or healthcare coverage, contact Greg Nelson of Western Growers Insurance Services.