It appears that ICE might be showing up in Labor Commissioner Offices in California per a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. These sightings are consistent with other reports statewide of ICE officers showing up to Superior Courts to apprehend undocumented workers earlier this year.
According to the article, there were two recent instances of ICE agents showing up at the office of the Labor Commissioner at locations in Van Nuys and Santa Ana looking for undocumented workers who had brought claims against their employers. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has 18 offices across the state, with the closest offices in Salinas and San Jose. According to the Labor Commissioner, it hears about 35,000 claims per year from employees seeking back pay, wages and penalties from employers.
The Labor Commissioner reported that Federal immigration agents have shown up twice at California labor dispute proceedings to apprehend undocumented workers, in what state officials believe may be cases of employer retaliation. In Van Nuys, the worker who had made a claim for back wages never showed up the day the ICE officer came, and the case was closed. In Santa Ana, the worker had reported retaliation, and the state is still investigating that claim. The ICE agents who came to the Van Nuys and Santa Ana offices asked for the specific workers involved in the proceedings by name, and arrived within a half hour of when the meetings with employers were supposed to begin, Julie Su, the agency’s head stated. Su said she suspects that the employers being accused of underpaying employees tipped off federal immigration agents about the status of the workers. The timing of wage hearings isn’t public, and generally the worker and employer are the only ones who know that information outside of the agency.
In response, officials distributed a memorandum in July instructing their staff to refuse entry to ICE agents who visit its offices to apprehend immigrants in the country without authorization. The memo instructs staff to ask federal immigration agents “to leave our office, including the waiting room, and inform the agent[s] that the labor commissioner does not consent to entry or search of any part of our office,” the memo said. The memo then instructs that if the agents refuse to leave, they should demand a search warrant signed by a judge before allowing them onto the premises.
California’s Labor Code Section 244(b) prohibits the reporting or threatening to report of the immigration status due to that employee’s exercising of a legal right under the Labor Code.
Let us know if our firm can help your company develop policies and best practices to deal with immigration issues in your workplace.
Sergio H. Parra is the lead attorney for L+G’s labor and employment practice. Sergio represents a wide array of employers and businesses in labor and employment related litigation in state, federal and administrative venues. Sergio is also called on a daily basis to provide practical advice on employment matters, including internal complaints and investigations, employment agreements and wage and hour matters.