Wage Theft and Undocumented Workers in California

According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), there are 10.5 million immigrants in California. This represents 23% of the foreign-based population nationwide. While some of the immigrants in California are documented, quite a number are in the state illegally. According to data from the Center for Migration Studies, about 22% of immigrants in the Golden State are undocumented.

With many undocumented immigrants living in California, it means that many workers in California are undocumented. To be specific, it is estimated that one in 10 workers in California is an undocumented worker. Companies in California employ undocumented immigrants to perform construction work, agricultural labor, and many other types of work.

Unfortunately, often, employers take advantage of undocumented immigrants by stealing their wages or overtime pay. If you are an undocumented worker in California and an employer is stealing your wages or overtime pay, you should know that you have the same rights as any other California worker. Indeed, you risk losing your job or, worse, being deported if you take legal action against your employer. However, a skilled employment attorney can help you fight for the justice you deserve.

Undocumented Workers Have the Right to Fair Wages

According to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is against the law for an employer to knowingly recruit or hire an individual unauthorized to work in the U.S. While some employers do not obey this law, some employ undocumented workers unknowingly. Regardless of whether an employer knowingly or unknowingly hires someone unauthorized to work in the U.S., they do not have a right to withhold fair wages from the worker. An employer cannot use a worker’s immigration status to not pay them the wages they have rightfully earned.  

Employers in California must pay undocumented workers the correct minimum wage. The current minimum wage in California is $15.50 per hour. However, depending on your jurisdiction, the minimum wage you are entitled to could be higher. You are also entitled to overtime pay. If you work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular rate for all hours worked in excess of eight or 40 hours.

Retaliation Is Prohibited

If you complain about unpaid wages or file an unpaid wage claim, your employer is prohibited from reporting your immigration status to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, while this is against the law, it does happen. Reporting a worker’s immigration status to ICE is one of the most common forms of retaliation against uncommented workers who complain about unpaid wages or file unpaid wage claims.

Also, your employer cannot terminate your employment because you complained about unpaid wages or filed an unpaid wage claim. However, while this is against the law, it does happen.

What Can You Do if an Employer Retaliates Against You?

If an employer retaliates against you for complaining about unpaid wages or filing an unpaid wage claim, you can file a retaliation claim with the Labor Commissioner’s Office with the help of an employment lawyer.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you are an undocumented worker who has been denied their wages or overtime pay, contact a California employment lawyer near you for legal help.