A California Court of Appeal held that the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and a 2002 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting back pay awards to illegal aliens for violations of labor laws do not preclude undocumented workers from suing an employer for failure to pay prevailing wage rates on public works projects. In Reyes v. Van Elk Ltd., four employees who performed welding work for Van Elk on construction projects in Los Angeles County filed suit against Van Elk for failure to pay the prevailing wage as required by California law on public works projects. Van Elk moved to have the case dismissed because the plaintiffs were undocumented workers and thus did not have standing to bring suit.
While recognizing that IRCA established an employment verification system to prevent employment to people not authorized to work, the court stated that the employer produced no evidence that the four plaintiffs provided false work authorization documents. If the plaintiffs provided false documents, then the wage claim for unpaid wages would be disallowed by the Supreme Court's ruling in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, the court said.
Relying on federal cases holding that IRCA did not limit remedies for wages available to undocumented workers, and that under the Fair Labor Standards Act the definition of "employee" was not limited to citizens, the Court held that the plaintiffs had standing to raise claims for prevailing wages.