California Responds to Increased Federal Immigration Enforcement Actions

by Stoel Rives LLP
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On October 5, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 450. With the passage of this bill, California becomes the first state in the nation to enact a law prohibiting employers from providing voluntary assistance to immigration enforcement agents during workplace investigations.

Earlier this year, U.S. immigration authorities conducted a series of high-profile raids of workplaces across the country in an attempt to locate undocumented immigrants.  In response, California Assembly member David Chiu introduced AB 450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act.  AB 450 prohibits both public and private employers from voluntarily providing immigrant enforcement (ICE) agents with access to nonpublic work areas or employee records, absent a judicial warrant or subpoena.  AB 450 also mandates that employers provide certain notices to their employees concerning any inspections by ICE agents of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms and the results of such inspections.

Critically, the law also provides for penalties of up to $10,000 for violations. While the law provides that enforcement of the sections concerning access to nonpublic work areas and employee records is limited to the California Labor Commissioner and/or Attorney General, the sections pertaining to required notices contain no such limitations.  As such, private employees may be able to recover penalties for violations of these notice provisions pursuant to California’s Private Attorney General Act.

This law requires employers to walk a fine line. On one hand, employers must comply with federal law prohibiting them from hiring individuals without verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.  On the other hand, AB 450 means that employers in California must also be cautious in how vigorously they apply immigration laws, e.g., voluntary compliance with a federal enforcement action.

Employers with California operations should promptly begin revising their employment processes and advising their management employees to ensure compliance with this new law. By failing to do so, they will leave themselves exposed to substantial liability from both public agencies and private employees.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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