According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, industries with higher percentages of foreign-born employees have higher rates of wage theft. In other words, employers that hire immigrants are more likely to illegally underpay their workers.
This is particularly common in Los Angeles, where the majority of U.S. clothes are assembled. Cut-and-sew clothing assembly plants typically pay their factory workers on piece rates, giving them a few cents for each article they touch. However, state and federal law require employers of piece-rate workers to ensure that they receive the local minimum wage at minimum. Unfortunately, in all too many cases, employers do not do this. One immigrant working at a Los Angeles clothing factory received just $199 a week despite putting in 11-hour days when the minimum wage was $10.50.
However, immigrants and other people who are facing wage theft have options. California labor laws give workers the right to fair pay regardless of their immigration status.
Legal Immigration Status and Employment in California
Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, all workers are guaranteed the right to minimum wage and overtime, regardless of their country of origin. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) clearly states that it does not consider or investigate the immigration status of workers who file complaints regarding labor violations. This ensures employers cannot take advantage of unauthorized immigrants, which has been found to reduce wages for all employers.
Despite this, some employers may still try to intimidate workers who want to file complaints. This is illegal, but managers rely on workers not knowing their rights. By threatening to report and deport unauthorized immigrants, these unscrupulous companies can scare their employees into continuing to accept illegally low wages.
Can You File a Wage Theft Claim as an Immigrant?
Yes, you can. Regardless of your immigration status, you can file a report with the DOL or the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. You can also pursue claims for unpaid wages. Your nation of origin does not impact whether you are owed the minimum wage and overtime as a piece-rate or hourly worker.
Additionally, Los Angeles has begun making legal efforts to become a “sanctuary city,” meaning that the city will not aid in federal immigration enforcement actions. As such, workers can feel increasingly secure in their ability to file unpaid wage claims without risking their status in the U.S.
Talk to Expert Los Angeles Wage Theft Lawyers
The best way to pursue unpaid wages is with experienced legal help. The wage theft lawyers at Alexander Morrison + Fehr, LLP, are available to help you file your claim against an abusive employer. Learn more about how our L.A. employment law firm can help you by scheduling your consultation today.