California Provides Stronger Protections for Immigrant Workers (SB 1001)

A new state law, SB 1001, guards immigrant workers from discrimination by their employers by creating a remedy when employers commit document abuse, for example, related to the I-9 process or when reverifying work authorization. 

California law already makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against workers for exercising their rights under the California Labor Code by engaging in “unfair immigration-related” practices.  Requesting more or different documents than are required under federal immigration law during the I-9 process, or refusing to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine, are considered unfair immigration-related practices under Labor Code, section 1019.    

Under federal immigration law, it is already illegal for employers to discriminate in the hiring, discharge, recruitment and verification process based on an individual’s citizenship status, immigration status, or national origin.  However, employers often do discriminate, sometimes by requiring employees provide a specific type of documentation (a U.S. birth certificate, for example) as verification, or by requiring employees provide more documentation than is required by the I-9 process.

This new state law adds Section 1019.1 to the Labor Code, and prohibits employers from:

  • Requesting more or different documents than required under Section 1324a(b) of Title 8 of the United States Code (I-9 required documents),
  • Refusing to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine,
  • Refusing to honor documents or work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work, or
  • Attempting to reinvestigate or reverify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work.

If an employer engages in this document abuse, an employee or applicant can now bring a charge to the California Labor Commissioner.

Employers can be fined up to $10,000 if they violate this provision.

This new section of the Labor Code is a victory for immigrant workers who too often are the target of this document abuse.  This new law presents another example of how community pressure on the legislature works to advance workers’ rights.

By Tiffany Crain Altamirano | November 2, 2016

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