The United States Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers pay their workers for all hours worked, and for overtime (time and a half) for all hours over 40 worked in a week. The law covers all wage workers, whether they are documented or not.
Some employers who employ undocumented workers know that they can require those workers to work far more than 40 hours in a week and that they can pay much less than minimum wage because these employees are afraid to complain due to their immigration status. When undocumented workers try to enforce their rights to be paid minimum and overtime wages, they are sometimes threatened by their employers with calling immigration authorities or with termination of their employment. These threats seriously hold back workers from enforcing their rights under law.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL), which enforces the law, knows that undocumented workers are particularly subject to these barriers to enforcing their rights, and it is DOL policy to enforce the law without regard to immigration status. Workers are also entitled to bring lawsuits to enforce their own and their fellow workers’ rights to minimum and overtime wages. Courts have recognized that retaliation by employers, whether in the workplace or in aggressive litigation tactics, may not be used to “chill” workers’ enforcement of their rights to legally due wages.
Fair Labor Standards Act class actions are lawsuits in which one, two, or more workers sue on behalf of all other workers of that employer who have similar claims, that is, who were treated in the same unfair manner. Once the court agrees, other workers can “opt-in” to enforce their rights. When employers discourage the workers from choosing to participate in the lawsuit by threatening to fire them or call immigration authorities, that is a form of the kind of improper action described above. In these situations, there is strength in numbers. It is harder to retaliate against 100 workers than it is against one.
If you have not been paid the minimum wage for hours worked, or at 1.5 times your regular rate for hours worked over 40, contact one of our experienced wage and hour attorneys for a free consultation.
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