by Elizabeth J. Boca
A California law taking effect on January 1 removes the word “alien” from the state’s Labor Code. The new law deletes two sections of the Labor Code as a way of modernizing and removing negative connotations in the law.
In 1937, the California Legislature enacted various provisions regarding the employment of “aliens,” defined as any person who isn’t a born or fully naturalized citizen of the United States. The legislature also enacted a provision that prescribes an order for the issuance of employment under specific public-works contracts—first to citizens of California, second to citizens of other states of the United States, and third to aliens.
The legislature repealed most of those Labor Code sections in 1970, but the definition of “alien” and the order for which employment is to be given to aliens remained in the Labor Code under Sections 1725 and 2015. The new law, Senate Bill 432, repeals those sections, thus eliminating the word “alien” from the code.
Democratic Senator Tony Mendoza wrote the bill, stating that eliminating the word “alien” is necessary to modernize the Labor Code. “Alien is now commonly considered a derogatory term for a foreign-born person and has very negative connotations,” Mendoza said.
Employers are advised to review their policies and handbooks and remove any references to the term “alien.” They also should consider educating employees and supervisors about immigrants’ rights during workplace training.
For more information on changes to California law relating to immigrants, see the September 14, 2015, issue of California Employment Law Letter.