Several cases around the country have reached the same determination – undocumented workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This means that even if you are lack the necessary legal documents to work, your employer cannot avoid paying you unemployment or overtime compensation. If you have questions about the FLSA or believe that you may not have received all the overtime compensation you are entitled to, it’s important to speak to a skilled Atlanta wage and hour attorney right away.
In the recent case – Lucas v. Jerusalem Café, LLC – the court evaluated whether six different undocumented workers were entitled to minimum wage and overtime compensation. According to court documents the workers were employed by the Jerusalem Café from June 2007 and March 2010 and were paid in cash at a fix weekly rate. The amount of pay each received every week did not change regardless of how many hours each employee worked. As a result some of the workers received less than minimum wage and none receiving overtime pay. Problems at the Café escalated when one of the workers was hit by a relative of the owner and called the police. Although the worker was offered $500 to not file charges against the man, he refused to be bought off and was fired.
Other workers involved in the lawsuit also claimed that they were fired after refusing to erroneously state how long they had worked for Café Jerusalem for a shorter period than they had. The workers then filed a wage and hour lawsuit, alleging that the owner violated the FLSA by failing to pay the workers the minimum and overtime wages they were entitled to.
Following a trial, the jury found that the workers had successfully stated a wage and hour claim against the cafe. On appeal, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the FLSA applies to undocumented workers. The court explained that employers who unlawfully hire “illegal” workers cannot avoid compliance with federal employment laws.
Citing Al Capone’s federal tax evasion lawsuit from decades ago, the court reasoned that employers who break the law should not be treated more leniently than those who obey the law.
The court noted that all workers – whether documented or not – are still considered employees under the FLSA – and as a result, they can bring an action for unpaid wages and other damages. The court explained that breaking one law doesn’t mean that employers can break other laws, reasoning that employers shouldn’t be “rewarded” when they break the law by hiring undocumented workers by allowing allowing them to avoid paying overtime and minimum wage to undocumented workers.
For more information or if you believe that you may not have received all the pay you are entitled to, please contact the top Georgia wage and hour lawyers Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.