The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision compels the conclusion that the Board lacks remedial authority to award backpay to undocumented immigrant workers whose rights have been violated under the National Labor Relations Act, even in cases where their illegal status was known to the employer at the time of hiring.
A three-member panel of the Board – Chairman Wilma B. Liebman and Members Mark Gaston Pearce and Brian Hayes – issued the unanimous decision in Mezonos Maven Bakery, with Member Craig Becker recused. The Board cited broad language in the Supreme Court decision, Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137(2002), which made clear that “awarding backpay to undocumented workers lies beyond the scope of [the Board’s] remedial authority, regardless of whether the employee or employer violated” the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). View the decision here.
In a concurring opinion, Chairman Liebman and Member Pearce agreed that Hoffman is controlling authority and thus precludes backpay here. But they reviewed the policy implications of that result, writing that, “in addition to the obvious failure to make employee-victims whole[,] the Act’s enforcement is undermined, employees are chilled in the exercise of their Section 7 rights, the workforce is fragmented, and a vital check on workplace abuses is removed.” Law-abiding employers who must compete with immigration-law violators also may be harmed, they wrote.