Can an Employer’s Counsel Retaliate if an Employee Files a Lawsuit?

Jose Arnulfo Arias, an undocumented worker, worked as a milker for Angelo Dairy. In 1997, he informed defendant employer of an offer he had received with a different dairy. In response, the employer threatened to report to federal immigration authorities that the other dairy was an employer of undocumented workers, forcing Arias to remain employed at Angelo Dairy.

In 2006, Jose Arnulfo Arias sued Angelo Dairy in California state court under California’s Unfair Competition Law for a variety of workplace violations, including failure to provide overtime pay and rest and meal periods.

After an unsuccessful mediation and a few weeks before the trial date in 2011, defendant employer’s attorney, Anthony Raimondo, retaliated against Arias by enlisting the services of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to take Arias into custody at a scheduled deposition and then to remove him from the United States.

On May 8, 2013, Arias filed this lawsuit against Angelo Dairy and Raimondo in the Eastern District of California. Arias alleged that the defendants violated anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Raimondo moved for summary judgement arguing that because he was never Arias’s actual employer, he cannot be held liable under the FLSA for retaliation against someone who was never his employee. The district court granted Raimondo’s motion to dismiss the case.

However, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the case, holding that an employer’s attorney can be held liable for retaliating against his client’s employee because the employee sued his client for violations of workplace laws.

Source: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice, which would vary with the specifics of an individual’s situation.

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