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Employer can’t compel injured worker to disclose immigration status

A California appellate court ruled that an employer was not entitled to compel an injured worker to provide discovery responses to inquiries into his immigration status.

Rigoberto Jose Manuel worked for BrightView Landscape Services Inc. In January 2018, he allegedly injured his back while at work and claimed that BrightView initially refused to take him to the company medical clinic and then had him sign a waiver for medical treatment but eventually seeking treatment, according to Manuel v. Superior Court (BrightView Landscape Services Inc.), filed Friday in the Court of Appeal for the 6th District of California in San Jose, California.

On restrictions, Mr. Manual returned to work and completed a full shift before his immediate supervisor allegedly told him not to return, and BrightView terminated his employment.

According to BrightView, however, Mr. Manuel had voluntarily terminated his employment by failing to return after he was identified by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement as ineligible to work in the country.

BrightView claimed that the agency sent it a notice of suspect documents, stating that it appeared Mr. Manuel was not authorized to work in the United States and did not provide documentation.

Mr. Manuel filed suit against BrightView, asserting a claim for wrongful termination.

BrightView demanded discovery from Mr. Manuel establishing that he was legally authorized to work in the United States. A trial court judge granted BrightView’s motion to compel Mr. Manuel to provide further discovery responses, finding that Mr. Manuel’s immigration status and lawful ability to work in the United States were relevant to BrightView’s defense that it was prohibited by federal law from employing him unless he was legally authorized.

Mr. Manuel filed a petition to vacate that order.

The appeals court reversed and remanded, stating that pursuant to the labor code, a person’s immigration status is irrelevant to the issue of liability for violation of state labor laws, except where the proponent of the discovery “has shown by clear and convincing evidence that the inquiry is necessary to comply with federal immigration law.”

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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