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  1. #1
    Senior Member ShockedinCalifornia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Kansas Supreme Court: IA Wins Wage Case

    Illegal immigrant wins wage case

    Kansas Supreme Court says state law covers all workers, even those in the U.S. illegally.

    Posted on Sat, Mar. 24,
    The Kansas City Star
    Kansas Supreme Court

    In a major decision Friday involving federal immigration law’s intersection with state wage laws, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants are fully entitled to their pay.

    In finding in favor of a cook at a Wichita fast-food restaurant, the court held that federal laws prohibiting the hiring of illegal immigrants do not trump Kansas’ “strong and longtime public policy” of protecting wage earners.

    “It sends a message that if you’re an employer, you most certainly want to play by the rules of the game,” said A.J. Kotich, chief attorney at the Kansas Department of Labor.

    The restaurant’s attorney, Diane F. Barger of Wichita, said that her client was “obviously disappointed” by the court’s ruling.

    “He stands by his position that federal law, as the Constitution says, pre-empts state law,” she said. “The immigration law clearly says that an undocumented worker does not have permission to work in the United States and that it’s illegal.”

    The case involved a claim filed by Cesar Martinez Corral, who was hired as a cook at Burrito Express. Corral worked there from October 2003 until May 12, 2004, when he was let go. The restaurant eventually went out of business, according to Barger.

    Although Burrito Express had agreed to pay Corral $6 an hour, he said he was paid only $50 or $60 a week for up to 60 hours of work.

    Corral filed a claim with the Kansas Department of Labor for earned but unpaid wages. The department awarded him $3,720 in wages, interest of $217 and a penalty of $3,720, for a total of $7,657.

    Burrito Express then appealed to the Sedgwick County District Court. There the Labor Department stipulated that Corral was an illegal immigrant “not legally permitted to work in the United States.”

    The district court found that the Kansas Wage Payment Act applied to illegal immigrants. But in its 17-page decision, it held that Corral was only entitled to the minimum wage because he was an illegal immigrant and therefore his employment contract was illegal.

    The district court also threw out the penalty award, finding that federal immigration policy pre-empted the state’s wage law.

    On appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court, the Labor Department argued that the court had erred in finding that Corral was entitled only to the minimum wage. Burrito Express, meanwhile, argued that Corral wasn’t even entitled to that, based on federal immigration law prohibiting the employment of illegal immigrants.

    The restaurant also pointed to a 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which a National Labor Relations Board award of back pay to an illegal immigrant was thrown out on the grounds that it was “foreclosed by federal immigration policy.”

    In its decision Friday, the Kansas court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, concerned a conflict between two federal laws — the National Labor Relations Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 — and not a conflict between federal law and state law.

    It then said that while the supremacy clause of the Constitution provides for pre-emption of state law, pre-emption is not presumed. Citing other courts’ rulings stating that the Hoffman case did not pre-empt state law, the court found that Kansas’ wage law held sway.

    “More specifically, we agree that the KWPA (Kansas Wage Payment Act) applies to earned, but unpaid, wages of an undocumented worker,” Justice Lawton Nuss wrote on behalf of the court.

    Nuss then addressed Burrito Express’ argument that Corral’s contract was illegal because he was an illegal immigrant. Noting “the strong and longtime Kansas public policy of protecting wages and wage earners,” he concluded “that to deny or to dilute an action for wages earned but not paid on the ground that such employment contracts are ‘illegal,’ would thus directly contravene the public policy of the state of Kansas.”

    Finally, Nuss found that the district court had been wrong to reverse the penalty against Burrito Express. The district court had said that imposing a penalty for the benefit of an illegal immigrant was not intended by the Legislature.

    But Nuss ruled that the restaurant was properly penalized under the statute because it willfully failed to pay Corral his wages. The Legislature can always amend the statute if that was not its intent, he wrote.

    At least one immigration lawyer, Overland Park attorney Mira Mdivani, hailed the decision as a carefully reasoned explanation of a difficult and confusing area of the law.

    “The court explained that if we allow employers to behave in this manner, then we will arrive at an effect completely opposite to what the federal law says,” she said. “The Immigration Reform and Control Act is meant to prevent, to punish and to discourage hiring workers without authorization.

    “If we hold under Kansas law that it’s OK for an employer to hire an illegal worker and then make them work and not pay them, then in effect we’re encouraging employers to go out there and seek illegal workers, because they can treat them like this and not pay them.”

    The case is Coma Corp. v. Kansas Department of Labor, No. 95,537.

    To reach Dan Margolies, call (816) 234-4481 or send e-mail to

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    was Georgia - now Arizona
    With the store owner's admission of entering into an illegal contract with the alien, proving his knowledge that the individual was illegal by the way he paid him, it should be no step at all to charge this man criminally and easily convict him.

    BTW, I agree with the ruling, but I think the court should have awarded TREBLE damages!

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