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California employers to protect immigrant workers under new law

In recent weeks, we have been sharing information about new California state laws that will enhance the legal duties of employers toward their employees in a variety of areas. One unique law requires employers to provide certain protections to employees against federal immigration authorities.

Gov. Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bill 450 on October 5, 2017, to take effect on January 1, 2018. According to his press release, the governor saw this bill as part of a larger effort to support and to provide "civil protections" for immigrants residing in California, to see that "hard-working people who contribute to our state are respected."

Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, was the bill's principal author, joined by several other legislative coauthors, some of whom are also Democrats from the San Francisco area: Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember Phil Ting, and Senator Scott Wiener.

Legislative policy

Comments within the final Assembly Floor Analysis indicate that the legislation is a direct reaction to President Trump's enforcement actions against all immigrants who do not have permission to be here. The comments cite news reports of federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE conducting "mass round-ups of immigrants" within workplaces.

The new state law aims to force federal agents to comply with federal procedural protections when approaching employers for information about or access to immigrant workers.

Main provisions

Here are the main requirements:

  • With narrow exception, public and private employers in the state may only let federal immigration agents into nonpublic areas of their worksites if the agents have valid judicial warrants.
  • With narrow exception, employers may not allow federal immigration agents access to employee records unless the agents have valid subpoenas or court orders.
  • I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms are completed by employees and employers after employees provide proof of eligibility to work. Employers who get notices that Form I-9 or similar inspections will be conducted by ICE or a similar agency must post notice of the inspection within 72 hours of receipt of the notice of inspection. Employers must provide copies to affected employees on request along with inspection results and related documentation.
  • Employers may not re-verify employees' employment eligibility except as required by federal law.

California employers should be aware that violations of the law could result in fines. Overall, California employers of all types and sizes should speak with legal counsel about how to comply with the new law when facing immigration enforcement actions in their workplaces.

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