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New Laws: Immigrant Worker Protections


California labor laws are designed to protect all workers, regardless of immigration status. But worker advocates say it’s tough to enforce those laws in the underground economy.

Caitlin Vega is with the California Labor Federation. Vega says she frequently hears about employers using immigration consequences as a tool for intimidation to keep workers from talking about workplace violations.

“It’s really heartbreaking to talk to workers who are faced with this," says Vega.

Vega says two bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown will protect workers. One is by Assemblyman Roger Hernández and the other is by Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg.

“The Hernandez bill creates this category of unfair immigration-related retaliation with a specific penalty," says Vega. "The Steinberg bill actually also extends to attorneys who participate in these kinds of threats.”

Attorneys could face suspension or disbarment while employers could be fined up to $10,000.

Some business groups like the California Chamber of Commerce say employers shouldn’t be penalized for the actions of rogue supervisors.


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Steve Milne

Morning Edition Anchor & Reporter

Steve is the Morning Edition anchor for Capital Public Radio. He covers stories on a wide range of topics including: business, education, real estate, agriculture and music.  Read Full Bio 

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