Illegal Workers Protected by FLSA
A federal district judge in Miami ruled that undocumented aliens working in the US have the same right to file claims for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as workers who are in this country legally.
The federal FLSA requires employers to pay one-and-a-half times the regular hourly pay rate to non-exempt employees for hours worked in excess of 40 in any workweek. In the case in Miami, the employer argued that the two employees who sued the company are illegal immigrants and not entitled to FLSA protections. The judge disagreed and cited a previous ruling by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that undocumented workers are “employees” within the meaning of the FLSA and can bring an action under the act for unpaid wages and liquidated damages. She further cited a court decision which held that violations of federal immigration laws do not preclude awards under the FLSA. The judge’s decision is in line with the majority of state and federal court decisions on this issue.
This decision should remind employers of the importance of properly identifying and establishing employment eligibility for all workers, following the I9 compliance requirements. Employers who inadvertently hire illegal workers should remember that those workers, if non-exempt, are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week, just like everyone else.