Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.

327 P.3d 797 (2014)

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Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.

California Supreme Court
327 P.3d 797 (2014)

Facts

Vicente Salas (plaintiff) worked for Sierra Chemical Company (Sierra) (defendant). In 2003 Salas submitted employment paperwork and provided a Social Security number along with a resident-alien card. In 2007 Salas sued Sierra under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), alleging that Sierra had not provided him with reasonable accommodation for his disability in relation to an on-the-job injury. Salas also sued, alleging that Sierra had denied him seasonal employment in retaliation for filing a claim for worker’s compensation. Salas sought lost wages, among other remedies. After Salas filed suit, Sierra learned that Salas had used falsified documents to obtain employment and was not authorized to work in the United States. Sierra argued that Salas was barred from recovery based on this newly acquired evidence that Salas was not authorized to work, which had exposed Sierra to liability. The federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) provided that once an employer learned that a worker was not authorized to work in the United States, the employer could not continue to employ the worker. However, California’s Senate Bill No. 1818 (Bill 1818) extended all of the state’s protections and remedies for workers, aside from reinstatement, to every person without regard to immigration status. This included the protections of FEHA, which sought to protect persons from discrimination in employment and housing based on classifications such as national origin, race, and disability. FEHA’s remedial framework relied on private suits for compensatory damages. After a trial court granted summary judgment for Sierra and an appellate court affirmed, the California Supreme Court granted review and addressed the issue of whether the application to unauthorized workers of FEHA’s antidiscrimination protection, which was enforced through private suits for remedies such as lost wages, was preempted by federal immigration law.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennard, J.)

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