Q&A with Charlie Plumb
Undocumented workers gain protection under wage laws
Q: It seems inconsistent that workers who clearly violate federal immigration and income tax laws could successfully sue their employer over a wage dispute, but that's exactly how a federal court of appeals recently ruled. What happened?
A: Nine employees of a Florida-based hurricane shutter company filed a lawsuit against their employer, as well as its president and two of its directors, for failure to pay overtime wages owed to them. During the trial, the employer established that some of the plaintiffs had violated federal law — specifically, two had failed to accurately report earned income to the IRS, and one was an undocumented alien who had used a false Social Security number to apply for his job. In light of these facts, the company asserted that workers who violate federal law shouldn't be able to recover damages resulting from their wrongdoing, including collecting an award under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The appeals court, however, rejected this argument.