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Undocumented worker faces deportation after wage-theft claim

As readers of our blog have seen from past posts, immigration law can interact with a wide range of legal practice areas. From criminal to family law, the complexities of intermixing laws can often mean drawn out litigation and conflicting rulings. This can get particularly complicated when employment law is thrown into the mix.

Residents here in Florida are seeing this play out this month in Washington D.C. where an undocumented immigrant is not only fighting to stay in the country but trying to reclaim the wages he says were not paid to him. His case raises important questions about whether undocumented immigrants are protected under state and federal employment laws like any other American citizen.

When the 26-year-old Guatemalan native first came to the U.S. he started working in a pita shop in the food court of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Ironically, this is the same building that houses the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Homeland Security, the very people who may have an issue with the man’s immigration status. But as the man explains, his employment with the shop had never been an issue until he pointed out that his boss had been violating labor laws.

According to the man, he was paid under the table in cash but never at minimum wage. He also claims that he regularly worked more than 40 hours a week but was never paid time-and-a-half for those additional hours. Not long after publically accusing his boss of the violation, he says he was detained and now has to attend a deportation hearing.

Because of the differences between employment law and immigration law, the man may need to seek assistance from two separate attorneys which could be seen as a huge financial burden for anyone.

The major question now is whether the man’s run-in with federal agents was because he was sold-out by his boss or a simple coincidence. Either way, he faces difficult litigation ahead with few simple answers to turn to.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Undocumented Worker Alleges Wage Theft, Ends Up In Deportation Proceedings," July 9, 2013

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