Employers in California Caught between State and Federal Immigration Laws

The stakes for the employers in the state of California were raised with rumors spreading about more raids in the places of work this month. State officials have issued threats of up to $10,000 in fines to employers who give employee information voluntarily to immigration authorities from the federal government. The Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra issued a warning this month to employers that they would face prosecution for the violations of the new state legislation that was designed to protect workers. Becerra noted that given the rumor mills that are out in the public domain, it is critical for employers to note that they will be subject to actions by the office of the Attorney General.

Violations include giving information voluntarily about their employees or giving exclusive access to employee’s information to third parties in a way that contradicts the new law in California. Becerra said that his office would prosecute anyone who acts in violation of the legislation. The law which is popularly known as the Assembly bill 450 which came to effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits both private and public employers from giving information about their employers to federal immigration officials without a warrant from the judiciary. The law also stipulates that employers in California are not at liberty to provide federal immigration agents with voluntary consent to obtain, review or even access records about employees without having obtained a court order or a subpoena unless otherwise needed by federal law.

For the first violation, fines range between $2,000 and $5,000 and $5,000 to $10,000 for more than one violation of the law. The bill stipulates that by July 1, a template will have been developed to give a notification to all workers of a scheduled I-9 audit within three days of receiving a notice of inspection from federal authorities. The legislation also gives a prohibition to the employers in California from the employment re-verification of an already existing employee unless otherwise specified by stipulations of the federal law.

The vice president of public affairs for the California Restaurant Association, Sharokina Shams said that employers had been put in a tight spot by the legislation particularly the small to medium size enterprises. She said that SMEs might not have the funds to hire lawyers or professionals in their respective human resource departments. The statements by the Attorney General are directly meant to show support for the millions of immigrants who work and live in California.



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