Employees are Protected by FLSA Regardless of Immigration Status
On September 19, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western Division of Kentucky ruled that employees, regardless of their immigration status, are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Court held that an employer could not obtain the Plaintiffs’ social security number, tax identification number, or the identity and contact information of Plaintiffs’ relatives when the Plaintiffs’ sought to bring an action against the employer for violating the FLSA.
Defendants Own Kentucky Restaurants
The Plaintiffs to the action are two former restaurant servers of Defendants who own and operate a number of Louisville, Kentucky restaurants. Plaintiffs have asserted that Defendants failed to pay them the statutory minimum and overtime wages at all times throughout their employment.
The Plaintiffs’ attorney, Trent Taylor, explained that “the court’s ruling is a big victory, not just for the Plaintiffs, but all similarly situated employees. This victory reaffirms the right of all workers, regardless of their status, to receive compensation for the work they’ve performed. More importantly, it strips unscrupulous employers of a means of intimidating both current and prospective FLSA plaintiffs from asserting their rights under the statute.”
Intimidating Techniques Used to Reveal Immigration Status
After the Defendants utilized intimidating techniques designed to reveal the immigration status of the Plaintiffs and their relatives, the Court determined that the requested information was not relevant to any claims or defenses raised. The Court explained that “[p]ermitting inquiry into information that may influence immigration status, such as social security numbers, presents a danger of intimidation that can inhibit plaintiffs in pursuing their rights.” It also noted that, “even where information concerning a plaintiff’s immigration status may arguably be relevant, courts generally find the potential for prejudice far outweighs whatever minimal probative value such information would have.” The Court’s decision affords FLSA plaintiffs greater assurance that defendant-employers who utilize similar discovery tactics will be prevented from doing so, and could, in certain circumstances, face sanctions for such conduct.