California: Undocumented Worker’s Workplace Discrimination Not Barred by Federal Immigration Law

California: Undocumented Worker’s Workplace Discrimination Not Barred by Federal Immigration Law

The Supreme Court of California, reversing an earlier decision by a lower appellate court, held that the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) does not generally preempt either the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) nor California's Senate Bill No. 1818, which generally provides that the protections, rights and remedies available under state law are available to all individuals who have applied for employment, or who are or who have been employed within the state, regardless of immigration status, except to the extent state law authorizes an award of lost pay damages for any period after the employer’s discovery of an employee’s ineligibility to work in the United States.  Moreover, the high court held that, contrary to the lower court’s holdings, the doctrines of after-acquired evidence and unclean hands are not complete defenses to a worker’s claims under California’s FEHA, although they do affect the availability of remedies.  The employee filed suit against his former employer, contending it improperly discriminated against him in that it initially accommodated the employee’s disability following a work-related injury by assigning him to light duty work, but after he filed a workers’ compensation claim, it stopped doing so. The employer contended that the employee’s FEHA action was barred since, as the employer discovered after the filing of the case, that the worker was an undocumented alien and had used false papers to secure employment.  The high court indicated the undocumented status might affect the range of the former employee’s remedies, it did not bar his discrimination action in and of itself.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co., 2014 Cal. LEXIS 4506 (June 26, 2014) [2014 Cal. LEXIS 4506 (June 26, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 66.03 [66.03]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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