Written by Joan Dentler
Assembly Bill 524, authored by Assistant Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo County) strengthening human rights protections for immigrants, has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to a media release distributed by Mullin's office.
The bill's language includes threats to report a person’s immigration status in the definition of extortion. The bill will take effect January 1, 2014.
“California is home to over one quarter of the immigrants who live in the United States,” said Mullin, who represents Assembly District 22 (Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Foster City, Hillsborough, Millbrae, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo and portions of South San Francisco).
“We have a civic obligation to ensure our laws adequately protect all people from exploitation and workplace retaliation based on immigration status.”
A recent report by the National Employment Law Project found that labor violations and widespread retaliation have become prominent features of the low-wage labor market in California.
“In many of these [low-wage] occupations and industries, vulnerable immigrants cannot exercise their labor rights or speak out against unfair or illegal working conditions without the fear of retaliation,” said Jose Mejia of the California State Council of Laborers. “AB 524 is a major step toward improving job quality in the low-wage jobs that fuel our state's economy and to remove the ability of employers to use immigrant status for retaliation or other unlawful purposes,” said Mullin.
By clarifying the definition of extortion, Mullin's office says AB 524 will help level the playing field and prevent unethical employers from using immigration status as a means of escaping responsibility for workplace abuses, coercion, and wage theft.