The Jerusalem Café in Missouri hired six undocumented workers between 2007 and 2010.  Some of these workers did not receive minimum wage. None of the workers received overtime pay. These workers sued the Café and its owners for violation of the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA).

The jury decided in favor of the workers. The District Court awarded the workers their unpaid minimum and overtime wages as well as liquidated damages and legal fees. The defendants appealed, asserting that the law does not protect illegally hired unauthorized workers.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the employers’ argument. In its’ opinion, the Court wrote that while the immigration laws clearly prohibit the hiring of undocumented workers, the FLSA also clearly required that undocumented workers be paid minimum and overtime wages. All workers are entitled to dignified working conditions, irrespective of the legality of their hire. Employers should not receive an advantage in hiring employees that are here illegally, it would frustrate the purpose of the immigration laws.