LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California law that protects workers from discrimination regardless of immigration status could be used by a migrant to sue his employer even though he used another man’s Social Security number, the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
The 5-2 decision by the court came in the case of a man who sued his former employer, Sierra Chemical Co., contending he was not brought back for seasonal work in retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim.
Justice Joyce Kennard, writing for the majority, cited a 2002 California law intended to grant unauthorized immigrants the same protections as other workers.
“Nothing in the statute states or implies that its central directive would not apply to any unauthorized alien who used false documentation to obtain employment,” wrote Kennard, who has recently retired from the court.
The plaintiff, Vincente Salas, sued his former employer in San Joaquin County in 2007. The company filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case on the grounds that Salas fraudulently used another person’s Social Security number to get hired by the firm when he first joined it.
The trial court rejected that request from Sierra Chemical, but an appeals court decided in favor of the company.
In its opinion, the San Francisco-based Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court and found Salas could seek lost wages for the period between when he was not re-hired for seasonal work and when the employer learned he had used a false Social Security Number.
It ruled he could not make a claim related to the time period after the employer discovered his use of another person’s social security number.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech and Sandra Maler