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FLSA Protects Undocumented Workers

Undocumented Workers Are Entitled to Overtime Pay and Minimum Wages

On the one hand, you would think that undocumented workers are not entitled to be paid an overtime wage or minimum wage because they are working in this country illegally and have not paid taxes. But on the other hand, these workers did their jobs and worked hard to get paid fairly. Fairness carried the day. So, when the issue was presented to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, how was it resolved?

Entitled! The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided Ivonne E. Galdames, et al vs N&D Investment, Corp., et al on June 23, 2011 as an unpublished opinion. In Galdames, the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether undocumented workers were “employees” who were entitled to the minimum wage and overtime wage protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Agreeing with the Plaintiffs/Appellees, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that its prior decision in Patel v. Quality Inn South, 846 F.2d 700 (11th Cir. 1998) was binding precedent and compelled a finding that the undocumented workers were “employees” who were entitled to the wage protections of the FLSA. “Accordingly, we reiterate that illegal aliens are “employees” covered by the FLSA.”

This was not a groundbreaking decision in the realm of minimum wage and overtime wage law, since it merely reiterated that a prior decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals still controlled.

My only issue with the Galdames decision is why it was designated as an “unpublished opinion”. It would seem that workers and employers would want to know that wage theft victims – legal and undocumented – are entitled to be paid an overtime wage and a minimum wage. If this opinion had been published, it may have served to provide some additional recognition for the rights of undocumented workers – who are entitled to receive both overtime pay and a minimum wage.


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