Reyes v. Van Elk, Ltd., 148 Cal. App. 4th 604 (2007)

Plaintiffs were employed by Van Elk on allegedly public works projects that were subject to California’s prevailing wage law. Van Elk filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because they were undocumented workers. Plaintiffs’ discovery responses affirmed that they were not born in the United States and that they had no social security numbers. Plaintiffs refused to answer questions regarding their citizenship, legal residency status, work visa information or documented worker status. Relying on Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137 (2002), the trial court determined that as undocumented workers, plaintiffs had no standing to assert their claims and that three California statutes making immigration status irrelevant to alleging such claims were preempted by federal law. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding there was no evidence plaintiffs had submitted false work authorization documents to a prospective employer in violation of federal law. Further, the Court held that the prevailing wage law and the California statutes were not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Cf. Detabali v. St. Luke’s Hosp., 2007 WL 1112679 (9th Cir. 2007) (union employee’s race and national origin discrimination claims were not preempted by federal labor law).