The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects all workers in the U.S., even if they’re working illegally. That’s the hard lesson some cafe owners had to learn when the 8th Circuit ruled July 29 in Lucas et al. v. Jerusalem Cafe that undocumented workers were allowed to sue for back pay.
Elmer Lucas and five other illegal aliens who worked for the Jerusalem Cafe between 2007 and 2010 sued the business; its owner, Farid Azzeh; and its manager, Adel Alazzeh; accusing them of violating the FLSA by paying less than minimum wage with no overtime. The situation came to a head when one of the workers called the police after being struck by the owner’s nephew. Worried that the police would find out they employed illegal aliens, the owners paid the worker $500 to drop the charge. When he refused, the owners fired both him and all the other workers who wouldn’t falsify employment applications.