Immigrant workers to start receiving settlement checks

Legal News Line Apr. 8, 2009, 3:34pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - Tax day, April 15, will mean something far different to thousands of California immigrant workers than for the rest of the country.

Tax day is when under-compensated construction workers will begin receiving payments from the $8.5 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit against a national construction firm.

More than 3,000 workers, some working illegally, were part of the lawsuit filed against Masco Contractor Services, Inc. and its California subsidiaries, Western Insulation and Schmid Insulation Contractors, for allegedly refusing to pay employees for a full day's work when warranted.

The workers, who were not members of a union, installed rain gutters, insulation and fireplaces during the height of the real estate boom.

Lawyers representing the workers say they believe it is among the largest class actions in California involving wage claims by Latino workers. The company denied any liability as part of the terms of the settlement.

"We hope that this sends a strong message that all workers have rights," said one of the attorneys, Gladys Limon of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Los Angeles office.

Lawyers for the class said it was important to send the signal that immigrant workers can't be abused, and must be fairly paid.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has also stepped up the attack on businesses over wage-related issues. He has sued several companies who work in California harbors for illegal wage practices.

He also established an Underground Economy Unit that investigates businesses for suspected wage and workers' compensation abuse.

Fallout from the lawsuit is only beginning to flow, along with the checks to workers. Groups seeking more stringent laws against illegal aliens said the business should now be prosecuted for hiring illegal workers.

The status of the illegal workers could not be considered as part of the class action, because of California civil code.

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