National Immigration Law Center and AFL-CIO Seek To Restore Rights for Wrongly Fired Immigrant Workers

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National Immigration Law Center and AFL-CIO Seek To Restore Rights for Wrongly Fired Immigrant Workers

Groups Ask the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to Review National Labor Relations Board Decision

WASHINGTON - The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to review a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision denying  backpay for workers who were fired after complaining about unfair  working conditions at Mezonos Maven Bakery in Brooklyn, New York.

This legal effort to restore immigrant workers’ rights occurs exactly ten years after the Supreme Court decided in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB that some wrongfully-fired unauthorized workers are not entitled to back pay under National Labor Relations Act.

"Workers should never have to choose between voicing their concerns about workplace conditions and receiving a paycheck. Unfortunately, that choice was foisted upon the courageous workers at Mezonos Bakery. These workers should not be stripped of legal remedies available to all of us if we are subject to abusive behavior in the workplace," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "We're filing this appeal today to fight to protect all workers' basic right to advocate for a fair and safe workplace." 

This is the latest step in a nine year legal challenge to Mezonos Maven Bakery’s firing of the workers.  The five plaintiffs in the lawsuit described horrendous conditions, where workers were forced to work 60 – 75 hours without receiving overtime and were subject to harassment. Workers were fired by this company after they complained about these conditions.

In the original charge filed with the NLRB, NILC and the AFL-CIO argued that because Mezonos Maven Bakery violated federal law by failing to verify the employees' work authorization when they were hired, the company should not be allowed to escape liability for the wrongful firings based on the Supreme Court’s Hoffman Plastic decision.  While an NLRB administrative law judge initially agreed that the Hoffman Plastic decision did not apply in this case, the NLRB, relying on Hoffman Plastic, reversed the decision and dismissed the award. 

The NLRB’s ruling gives unscrupulous employers an incentive to hire unauthorized workers, whom they can hire and then illegally fire with impunity, and thereby depress the working conditions of all workers. 

As Ana Avendaño, the AFL-CIO’s assistant to the president and director of immigration and community action, stated: "If employers can violate the rights of undocumented workers with impunity, all workers suffer.  Justice demands that all workers be allowed to speak out about unfair or unsafe conditions without fear of being fired for exercising their federally-protected workplace rights."

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The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions. The AFL-CIO union movement represents 10.5 million members, including 2 million members in Working America, its new community affiliate. We are teachers and truck drivers, musicians and miners, firefighters and farm workers, bakers and bottlers, engineers and editors, pilots and public employees, doctors and nurses, painters and laborers-and more.

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