Businesses worried about being sued for hiring illegal aliens
Posted Wed, Feb 2, 2006 at 9:07 am
Employers who hire illegal immigrants to depress wages have something new to fear: Employees who use racketeering laws to take them to court.
A law originally conceived to hammer the Mafia – the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute – is now being swung against employers at chicken-plucking plants, apple orchards and janitorial firms.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a Georgia racketeering case involving carpet giant Mohawk Industries Inc., its employment practices and allegations that it used labor recruiters in Brownsville.
The case is being closely watched by many employment law specialists – particularly in areas such as North Texas with large illegal immigrant populations – because it could trigger a rash of costly suits against businesses that depend on illegal labor.
A handful of similar suits have already been filed under RICO, and last month a judge approved a $1.3 million settlement in one of them...
Because so many of the RICO suits are brought in areas that hire large numbers of Hispanics, [Mohawk attorney Juan Morillo] said the issue should be of concern to the Hispanic community as a whole...
...The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a brief in support of Mohawk. So did Associated Builders & Contractors, a powerful trade group.
"This case is about RICO, which was initially used to go after the mob, and now it is being expanded by smart plaintiff lawyers to go after employers who have nothing to do with the mob," said Amar Sarwal, general counsel of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber...