Ninth Circuit Slams Lawyer Who Contacted ICE to Retaliate Against and Intimidate Employee
August 19, 2017 by Stephanie Platenkamp & Robert Bonsall
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an excellent decision ruling that attorneys who engage in unlawful retaliatory action against employees who bring wage and hour claims may be held individually liable for the misconduct. Arias v. Raimondo. (No. 15-16120, 2017 WL 2676771 (9th Cir. June 22, 2017).)
José Arnulfo Arias had been a milker for Angelo Dairy since 1995. In 2006, Arias sued Angelo Dairy on behalf of himself and other employees alleging a variety of workplace violations, including failure to provide overtime pay and rest and meal periods. Before trial, however, the dairy’s attorney reported Arias to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and attempted to facilitate his arrest at a scheduled deposition in the wage and hour case. After Arias learned of these reprehensible actions, he suffered anxiety, mental anguish and emotional distress that induced him to settle his lawsuit out of fear of deportation. The employer’s attorney, Anthony Raimondo, had similarly retaliated against employees asserting their workplace rights by contacting ICE on at least five prior occasions.
In 2013, Arias filed suit against Angelo Dairy and Anthony Raimondo, alleging unlawful retaliation under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Arias claimed that Raimondo, acting as Angelo Dairy’s agent, retaliated against him for filing his 2006 lawsuit. Though the dairy settled its case, Raimondo filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that because he was not Arias’ actual employer, a retaliation claim under the FLSA could not be filed against him. Initially, the District Court granted Raimondo’s motion to dismiss.
However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision finding that it is unlawful for any person to retaliate against an employee because that employee has filed a complaint related to the FLSA. The Court noted that “person” means any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer, including a “legal representative.”
The Ninth Circuit said it best when it noted that the FLSA is “remedial and humanitarian in purpose. We are not here dealing with mere chattels or articles of trade but with the rights of those who toil, of those who sacrifice a full measure of their freedom and talents to the use and profit of others . . . . Such a statute must not be interpreted or applied in a narrow, grudging manner.” Thus, the Ninth Circuit found, although Anthony Raimondo did not directly employ Arias, his actions were “manifestly” within the purview of the FLSA’s antiretaliation provision.
This broad and laudable interpretation of antiretaliation provisions will better effectuate the protective purposes of state wage and hour laws, as it may cause unscrupulous actors to think twice before utilizing instruments as devastating as the federal government’s deportation apparatus to intimidate and coerce workers attempting to enforce their workplace rights.
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