Immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, may face harassment or abuse from employers. Many of these workers might be afraid to seek legal help. There are recent cases where abused immigrant workers have fought back against employers with great success.
In 2012, 11 workers from the Philippines arrived in America to work at L’Amande French Bakery. These workers were excited to start their new jobs, but they had no idea how horrible their experience was about to become.
Instead of the $9 an hour minimum wage (California’s minimum wage in 2012), these workers were paid a lowly $3 an hour. It gets much worse. Workers were given 15-hour days with no breaks and were told to do jobs that had nothing to do with baking. According to the lawsuit, the immigrant workers were required to paint and clean an apartment building operated by the owners of L’Amande French Bakery.
After toiling away for 15 hours straight every day, the workers were forced to sleep on the floor. When the workers decided to fight back against the abuse by filing a lawsuit, their employer threatened to have them deported.
This horrible story does have a happy ending. The owners of L’Amande French Bakery were successfully sued for human trafficking and labor law violations. L’Amande’s owners were ordered to pay $15.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
This story is also an important reminder that in California, undocumented and documented workers have rights.
How California Labor Law Protects Immigrant Workers
California employees are entitled to labor law protections, including minimum wage, freedom from retaliation and a right to file safety and health complaints. Immigrant workers can file wage claims and other grievances with the California Department of Industrial Relations.
In some cases, like the one we discussed today, workers can file lawsuits. Abuse against workers is never acceptable, and guilty employers should be held accountable.
The Los Angeles labor law attorneys at the Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob can help workers hold abusive employers responsible for their actions.