Many workers think if they are “undocumented,” then they cannot get back pay or other damages for unpaid overtime or other wage and hour violation. This is not the case. In fact, undocumented workers have the same rights as “documented” workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”). The FLSA provides all workers – regardless of citizen status – the same basic rights. These include the right to minimum wage and for non-exempt workers, overtime compensation at a rate of one and one-half times a worker’s standard rate of pay.
A recent case out of the Eleventh Circuit (which includes Georgia, Florida and Alabama) just reached the same conclusion – that a worker’s immigration status does not affect his or her right to recover back wages for unpaid overtime or other damages.
The FLSA can be confusing – if you have questions about the FLSA or are concerned that you have not been paid all the compensation you deserve, it is important to consult with a skilled Georgia wage and hour attorney right away. A knowledgeable FLSA attorney can advise you concerning your rights and help you determine your next steps.
In the recent case, Lamonica v. Safe Hurricane Shutters Inc., two undocumented aliens filed a wage and hour lawsuit seeking back pay for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). The defendant Shutter Company argued that the workers’ illegal immigration status meant that they could not recover compensation based on a case decided over ten years ago - Hoffman Plastic Compounds Inc. v. NLRB. However, the 11th Circuit rejected this argument and instead upheld the FLSA judgment, concluding that nothing in Hoffman overruled Eleventh Circuit precedent that undocumented aliens remain "employees" who can recover damages under the FLSA.
Importantly, the court stated, “The Act unequivocally provides that any employer who violates its minimum wage or overtime provisions ‘shall be liable to the employee or employees…in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation…and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages’ . . .there is nothing in the FLSA that would allow us to conclude that undocumented aliens … [are] barred from recovering unpaid wages.” The 11th Circuit is just one of many federal courts that have found that immigration status does not affect your rights to compensation under the FLSA.