Legal Fallout From Immigration Marches Starts

The Legal Aid Society of San Francisco – Employment Law Center announced on Wednesday it was representing a Stockton woman who was fired after participating in the May 1 immigrant right demonstrations.

Sandra Carreno, a 31-year-old Latina salesperson for South Bay Foundry in Lodi, says she had obtained written permission to take a vacation day May 1.

But on the Friday before the Monday rally, Carreno says the manager of the Lodi office asked her what she planned to do that day, and also instructed her to relate to other Spanish-speaking employees they would be fired if they missed work to attend the rallies.

Carreno filed one complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging retaliation for engaging in protected political activity and for discrimination on the basis of national origin. According to the complaint, a company HR employee also questioned Carreno about her intent to march on May 1. And when Carreno asked the HR employee whether she would question a white employee in this way, Carreno claims the employee responded “No, this is about Mexicans.”

The second complaint was filed with the California Labor Commissioner under Sections 1101 and 1102 of the California Labor Code, which also provide employees with protections for participating in political activity.

Matthew Goldberg, an attorney with the law center, says this might be the first legal challenge in California since the May 1 rallies.

He has asked for the labor commissioner to provide an expedited ruling as a means of providing education about the existence and importance of these rights.

“The California Supreme Court has interpreted political support broadly to include marches and protests to advance a particular set of rights,” says Goldberg.

There may be more claims to come. Goldberg says his agency is currently researching a dozen other reports from employees who say they have been, reprimanded, suspended or terminated.

“We think this is going under-reported,” he says.

— Marie-Anne Hogarth

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