WATCH: Joshua Newville at Minnesota Supreme Court on Behalf of Undocumented Worker
Yesterday, Attorney Joshua Newville argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court in Sanchez v. Dahlke Trailer Sales, Inc., No. 15-1183. The precedent-setting case has enormous implications for undocumented workers who are injured on the job in Minnesota.
Plaintiff A. Sanchez labored for Dahlke Trailer Sales, Inc. for almost nine years.
Sanchez contends that from 2005 until 2013, Dahlke knowingly employed him as an undocumented worker. In addition to Dahlke receiving notice from the federal government that Sanchez’s Social Security number was invalid, Sanchez alleges that over his years of employment, Dahlke’s owners and managers directly asked him his immigration status, conversed with him about it, joked about it, and offered a stream of political commentary about him and immigration policy in general. Sanchez says that he was honest with Dahlke about his immigration status early on during his career with the company.
Nevertheless, Dahlke continued to employ Sanchez until he was severely injured on the job (he put a sandblaster through his leg and was hospitalized). He says he then pursued workers’ compensation benefits and Dahlke responded by telling him that they could no longer help him and that their bridge with him had been cut. Dahlke then removed Sanchez from his position, ostensibly citing federal law that prohibits employers from knowingly employing undocumented workers.
On Sanchez’s behalf, Newville brought suit for violation of Minnesota Statute § 176.82, which prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s pursuit of workers’ compensation benefits and from retaliating against employees by discharging them. An Anoka County District Court Judge later threw out Sanchez’s case, arguing that the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act preempted his claim, and that Sanchez was only put on leave, not discharged. Sanchez then appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and remanded for trial. Dahlke then petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review. There is a possibility that the United States Supreme Court could review this case.
Newville fights on behalf of all workers who have been treated unfairly by their employers. Employers who attempt to unfairly turn a profit on the backs of undocumented workers harm our state and nation. We are confident that justice will prevail.
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Joshua Newville is an attorney and mediator based in Minnesota. He litigates employment and civil rights cases, serves as a mediator for civil disputes, and provides employment law advice.