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Immigration status ruled irrelevant in wage and hour disputes

In a case that could impact workers in Pennsylvania and across the United States, a federal court in New York has ruled that employees are not required to produce immigration documents when suing employers over wage and hour disputes. This is significant because employers will no longer be able to defend themselves by alleging a worker is an illegal immigrant.

In the case before the court, an employer who was being sued for allegedly failing to pay employees demanded that the workers produce various documents proving their immigration status. The workers countered that their immigration status was irrelevant to the question of whether the employer had paid them. The court ultimately sided with the workers, stating that requesting a worker's immigration status produced a "danger of intimidation" that outweighed any value such evidence may have supplied. The judge held that federal courts have established that the protections provided by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are available to undocumented workers.

According to legal experts, this case underscores that all workers, regardless of immigration status, are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which means that future requests for immigration documents in similar legal cases will likely be quashed by the courts for being irrelevant. Further, the U.S. Department of Labor and its local equivalents have consistently said that wage and hour laws cover all workers, whether they are documented or undocumented.

Employment immigration issues can be complex, stressful and time-consuming to deal with. Foreign workers who are facing these matters may benefit by consulting with an attorney. Legal counsel could help ensure that all documentation is properly prepared and that all deadlines are met.

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