HR Management & Compliance

New California law on immigrant discrimination takes effect January 1

by Alka Ramchandani

A new California law taking effect January 1 clarifies a previous law prohibiting immigrant-related discrimination.

Last year, a law creating California Labor Code Section 1019 was enacted. That law makes it unlawful for an employer or any other person to engage in—or direct another person to engage in—any “unfair immigration-related practice” against a worker in retaliation for exercising a legal right.

Unfair immigration-related practices include requesting more or different documents than are required under law, threatening to file a false police report, using the federal E-Verify system to check the status of an employee in a time and manner not required by law, or threatening to contact immigration authorities.

The new law expands the definition of “unfair immigration-related practices” in Labor Code Section 1019 to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with a state or federal agency.

The new law authorizes a civil action for equitable relief and damages or penalties for any employee who is subject to an unfair immigration-related practice. It also authorizes a court to issue an order directing the appropriate government agency to suspend an employer’s business licenses.

The previous law also provided that under Labor Code Section 1024.6, employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating, retaliating, or taking an adverse action against an employee because the employee updates his “personal information.” The new law clarifies that updating personal information means a lawful change of name, Social Security number, or federal employment authorization document.

Also, the previous law amended Labor Code Section 98.6 to make it illegal to discharge or discriminate, retaliate, or take an adverse action against an employee for making a written or oral complaint for unpaid wages. And it provided that an employer that violates Section 98.6 is liable for no more than $10,000 in civil penalties per employee for each violation. The new law clarifies that the $10,000 penalty will be awarded to the employees who suffered the violation.

For more information on new California laws taking effect on January 1, see the September 5, 2014, issue of California Employment Law Letter.

Alka Ramchandani is an attorney with Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. in San Francisco. She can be reached at aramchandani@ebglaw.com