New Law: California recently enacted a series of bills that will provide additional protections to undocumented immigrants working in California (SB 666 and AB 263). The bills prohibit employers from reporting or threatening to report a current, former or prospective employee’s immigration status because the employee exercised a right under the California Labor Code, Civil Code or Government Code, including complaining about unpaid wages. A violation can lead to various penalties, including suspension of a company’s business license. In addition, employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against employees who make updates to their personal information that are unrelated to skills, qualifications or knowledge. This seemingly innocuous provision may prevent termination for initially providing false work authorization documents and subsequently updating the information.

Impact: California has the largest undocumented immigrant population in the country, most studies estimating that undocumented workers comprise nearly 10 percent of California’s workforce. Any employer with a California workforce should train and educate supervisors concerning these new laws to ensure compliance and to avoid potential penalties. In addition, the stated purpose of these laws was to protect the undocumented workforce from wage theft and unsafe work conditions because they are the most frequent victims of these employment violations. Thus, these laws are intended to encourage individuals to raise wage and safety issues, including filing claims against employers, without the fear of retaliation. As a result, these new laws may serve to encourage wage and hour and other employment-related litigation.