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Aramark Facility Servs. v. SEIU - Local 1877, 530 F.3d 817 (9th Cir. 2008)

Rule:

Constructive knowledge is knowledge that may fairly be inferred through notice of certain facts and circumstances that would lead a person, through the exercise of reasonable care, to know about a certain condition. 8 C.F.R. § 274a.1(l). For purposes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, constructive knowledge is to be narrowly construed.

Facts:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sent letters to Aramark Facility Services, which indicated that the social security numbers of some 3,300 of its employees nationwide did not match those in the SSA's database. Forty-eight employees were represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Suspecting immigration violations, Aramark told the listed employees they had three days to correct the mismatches by proving they had begun the process of applying for a new social security card. Seven to ten days later, Aramark fired the 33 employees who did not timely comply. Subsequently, SEIU filed a a grievance on behalf of the fired workers, contending the terminations were without just cause and thus, in breach of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Aramark and SEIU. An arbitrator ruled for SEIU and awarded the fired workers back-pay and reinstatement, finding there was no convincing information that any of the fired workers were undocumented. The district court vacated the award on the ground that it violated public policy. SEIU timely appealed.

Issue:

Did the SSA's no-match letter -- and the fired employees' responses -- put Aramark on constructive notice that it was employing undocumented workers?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Aramark has not established constructive knowledge of any immigration violations. According to the Court, constructive knowledge was to be narrowly construed in the immigration context and required positive information of a worker's undocumented status. Moreover, the Court held that it had to defer to the arbitrator's factual findings even when evaluating an award for violation of public policy. Accordingly, given the extremely short time that Aramark gave its employees to return with further documents and the arbitrator's finding that Aramark had no "convincing information" of immigration violations, the employees' failure to meet the deadline simply was not probative enough of their immigration status to indicate that public policy would be violated if they were reinstated and given backpay. Therefore, the district court erred, and the award must be confirmed.

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