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Supreme Court: Illegal workers aren’t due back pay

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Immigrants who work in the United States illegally can't claim the same rights to restitution as U.S. citizens when they are mistreated on the job, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month.

The court said a California plastics company owed nothing to a Mexican man who used a fake ID to get a job. The worker, fired for trying to unionize fellow workers, was originally awarded $67,000 in back pay by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

But in a 5-4 ruling, the high court tossed out the judgment, saying that "awarding back pay to illegal aliens runs counter to policies underlying" federal immigration laws.

The NLRB has allowed undocumented workers to collect back pay in discrimination cases since 1995. It argued that without the threat of punishment like back pay, employers could exploit undocumented workers.

The Supreme Court agreed that undocumented workers still have protection under basic federal labor laws. But this case says such workers aren't entitled to back pay "for wages that could not lawfully have been earned and for a job obtained in the first instance by a criminal fraud." (Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. National Labor Relations Board, 00-1595)

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