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March 23, 2005

MI High Court Protects Immigrant Workers

Mayra Cabrera and Norma Portillo were building cleaners in Mendon, Michigan, who in typical fashion were not paid for work they had done.

But in less typical fashion, they took their case to court. At the trial level, the judge, at the request of the employer, ordered the workers to reveal their social security numbers. That was information the employer should already have had, so the only purpose was to intimidate the workers, a typical tactic by both employers and some courts to chill immigrant workers from defending their rights.

But in a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the state judges declared that social security information "is clearly not relevant in determining liability for unpaid wages" and should already be in the possession of the employer. The judges declared that the employer requested the information "for the improper purpose of intimidating plaintiffs to withdraw their lawsuit and forego their legal rights."

For immigrant workers, the minimum wage and other worker protections are useless if going to court risks getting them deported. So kudos to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Posted by Nathan at March 23, 2005 07:51 AM