Requiring Employees to Prove Eligibility to Work in the U.S. Can Lead to Liability

As the national controversy continues to swirl around immigration issues, a federal appellate court this week faulted an employer for demanding that an employee provide information to prove “‘legal right to work in the United States … as required by the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986.’”  The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (“Ninth Circuit”) ruled in Santillan v. USA Waste of California, Inc., Case No. No. 15-55238, that Gilberto Santillan — a 53-year-old, Spanish-speaking garbage truck driver — did not have to “provide proof of employment eligibility.”

The appellate court said that was so because Santillan, who had worked for the employer for 32 years, had been fired and then reinstated shortly before his employer required him to provide such proof.  It may come as a surprise to employers to learn that an employee who is fired and then reinstated may not have to prove his or her eligibility to work in the U.S. upon reinstatement, but that is the case under federal law.