On May 17, 2018, Justice Jeffrey Brown of the New York State Supreme Court for Nassau County shot down an argument that the plaintiffs, who were former employees of the defendants, could not pursue a class action to recover unpaid wages because it was supposedly “patently obvious” that the plaintiffs lacked proper immigration documentation.
Specifically, in Molina, et al. v. Two Bros. Scrap Metal, Inc., et al., Justice Brown held that, even if the defendants were correct about the plaintiffs’ immigration status, this in no way barred the plaintiffs from pursuing their rights under federal and State wage laws. Similarly, the plaintiffs’ immigration status had no impact on their right to bring their wage claims as a class action. As noted in the decision, Justice Brown’s conclusion is supported by a large body of case law from federal and State courts all over New York.
The defendants in Two Bros. also argued that, because they were purportedly undocumented immigrants, the plaintiffs could not recover liquidated damages, which are designed to provide additional compensation to employees. Justice Brown quickly dismissed this argument as well, clearly stating that an employee’s immigration status has no impact whatsoever on his or her ability to recover liquidated damages.
The Two Bros. decision hardly creates new law. On the contrary, it reaffirms a longstanding legal principle in New York: documented or not, all employees are equally entitled to recover their unpaid wages and liquidated damages relating to same.
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About Alex J. Hartzband