California Supreme Court Grants Review of Anti-Immigrant Worker Decision

California Supreme Court Grants Review of Anti-Immigrant Worker Decision
November 17, 2011

On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, the California Supreme Court agreed to review a lower-court opinion in a civil rights case that will have a broad impact on the rights of immigrant workers in California.

In September, the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center asked the state’s high court to reverse a lower court opinion in Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co. Salas involves an immigrant worker, Vicente Salas, who had sustained a back injury at work and who alleged that his employer failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District rejected Mr. Salas’s lawsuit because the employer had pointed to an alleged discrepancy with his Social Security number. The lower court agreed with the employer’s claim that Mr. Salas was not entitled to employment in the first place, and that he therefore could not bring suit to enforce his civil rights.

In its Petition for Review to the California Supreme Court, the LAS–ELC argued that the lower court had ignored well-established laws ensuring that all workers are fully protected by California’s labor and employment laws but also U.S. Supreme Court precedent preventing employers from evading responsibility for violating their workers’ rights simply because they may find evidence of unrelated employee wrongdoing.

All seven California Supreme Court justices voted in favor of reviewing the case.

The Court’s grant of review automatically vacates the Court of Appeal decision.

“Particularly since the Court very rarely grants review, we’re extremely gratified that it has agreed to take this case up,” said LAS–ELC staff attorney Araceli Martínez-Olguín. “We are hopeful that the Court will overrule an opinion that could jeopardize the ability of immigrant workers to avail themselves of the protections of California law when their workplace rights have been violated.”

Mr. Salas is also represented by David C. Rancaño, of Rancaño & Rancaño PLC in Modesto.

The case is Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co., No. S196568.