Anti-retaliation protections apply to all employees

The Minnesota Supreme Court just reaffirmed a longstanding legal principle that helps to promote workplace fairness for all. In Sanchez v. Dahlke Sales, Inc., the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the anti-retaliation protections under the State workers’ compensation law, Minn. Stat. § 176.82, Subd. 1, apply to undocumented immigrant employees as much as they apply to documented native-born employees. The plaintiff in that case, Anibal Sanchez, worked many years for the employer. The employer evidently only had a problem with the plaintiff working for the employer after the plaintiff suffered a work-related injury. In the litigation of the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claims, the employer suddenly alleged to be concerned about whether the plaintiff had legal status to work in the United States. In truth, the plaintiff did not have legal status – but the Supreme Court in Sanchez still confirmed that the employer could not retaliate against the plaintiff by firing him for seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

On the one hand, the important ruling in Sanchez should not be surprising. Both Federal and State courts across the country have consistently reiterated that the anti-retaliation protections under an array of employment law statutes, such as Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq., apply to all employees – whether the employees have legal status to work or not. These courts, much like the Supreme Court in Sanchez, recognize that stripping undocumented immigrant employees of rights under employment law and civil rights statutes would encourage exploitive and even dangerous business practices that could harm the workforce, the larger economy, and the general public interest.

On the other hand, the decision in Sanchez could be surprising to some given the rhetoric used during the last Presidential campaign and since as well as the nature of the policy priorities and actions by the current Federal administration. For example, the administration is changing budget allocations to pursue the construction of a wall across the entire border with Mexico. In addition, the administration has continued to push forward with a travel ban that excludes certain immigrants from entering the United States.

Under the circumstances, then, Sanchez addresses vital public policy and essential legal rights. Consequently, Cummins & Cummins, LLP served as amicus curiae in support of the plaintiff in the case. The firm has an excellent track record of so advocating for the rule of law on behalf of both clients and non-clients in the appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, because we all do better when we all do better.