Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill – AB 450 – that would put employers between the federal government and the state of California in the immigration debate. Basically, the bill imposes penalties on employers who cooperate or do not notify the state of federal immigration actions taking place at their locations. As set out in a statement issued by Assemblymember Chiu, the bill does the following:
- Protecting workers from being wrongfully detained in their workplace by requiring employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE access to a worksite.
- Preventing employers from sharing confidential employee information, such as a social security number, without a subpoena.
- Requiring employers to notify the Labor Commissioner and employee representative of a worksite raid. Employers must also notify the Labor Commissioner, employees, and employee representatives of an I-9 audit.
- Preventing employers from retaliating against employees who report labor claims by enabling workers crucial to a labor claim investigation to receive certification from the Labor Commissioner. This certification would both protect the worker and aid in successfully adjudicating labor violations.
The current version of the bill creates the following obligations for employers:
- prohibit an employer from providing a federal immigration enforcement agent access to a place of labor without a properly executed warrant and would prohibit an employer, or a person acting on behalf of the employer, from providing voluntary access to a federal government immigration enforcement agent to the employer’s employee records without a subpoena
- require an employer to provide an employee, and the employee’s representative, a written notice containing specified information, in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment information, of an immigration worksite enforcement action to be conducted by a federal immigration agency at the employer’s worksite, unless prohibited by federal law
- require an employer to provide to an affected employee, and to the employee’s representative, a copy of the written federal immigration agency notice describing the results of an immigration worksite enforcement audit or inspection and written notice of the obligations of the employer and the affected employee arising from the action
- require an employer to notify the Labor Commissioner of a federal government immigration agency immigration worksite enforcement action within 24 hours of receiving notice of the action and, if the employer does not receive advance notice, to immediately notify the Labor Commission upon learning of the action, unless prohibited by federal law
- require an employer to notify the Labor Commissioner before conducting a self-audit or inspection of specified employment eligibility verification forms, and before checking the employee work authorization documents of a current employee, unless prohibited by federal law
Failure to meet any of the obligations would create liability for employers of not less than $10,000 and not more than $25,000 for each violation. This creates a potential legal conundrum for employers who have a responsibility to comply with federal immigration laws. Under this proposed bill employers could face fines under state law for not following these requirements, but on the other hand employers face penalties for not complying with federal immigration laws. The bill makes employers responsible for these difficult legal determinations in interpreting state and federal obligations, in addition to requiring them to become legal experts in determining if the federal government has a “properly executed search warrant” for example.