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Thinking of stiffing illegal immigrant workers? Better be ready to defend huge class-action suit

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

The fact that a worker is in this coun­try illegally does not mean he can’t file a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime lawsuit. What’s more, that case can turn into a class-action suit, representing all other similarly situated illegal workers.

The reason is plain and simple. Congress and the courts believe some unscrupulous employers might hire illegal immigrants as cheap labor, thinking workers won’t complain for fear of deportation. To encourage broad FLSA compliance, courts take such cases, even though technically the undocumented aliens aren’t author­ized to work.

Recent case: Juan Suchite sued his former employer, Tecta America, for unpaid wages under the FLSA on behalf of himself and other similarly situated workers. Suchite is not authorized to work in the United States, a characteristic he shares with the others in the lawsuit.

During discovery, one of Tecta’s attorneys argued that undocumented workers can’t sue for unpaid wages and then told some of the workers that he might have to report them to immigration authorities.

The court said the workers could pursue back pay even if they were working illegally. (Suchite, et al., v. Kleppin, et al., No. 10-21166, SD FL, 2011)

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