Court: Immigration Status Relevant to Food Safety
Agrees with IRLI, orders discovery on whether illegal aliens worked at plant
WASHINGTON—A Texas federal district court has ruled that a meat-processing company, Quality Sausage Company, LLC, must turn over information about the immigration status of its workers to the plaintiff in a lawsuit against it. The plaintiff, a legal immigrant named Lam Nguyen, claims the company fired him, in violation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, because he blew the whistle on the company’s illegal workforce. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Nguyen’s discovery motion.
The Food Safety Modernization Act forbids employers to retaliate against employees who bring attention to food-safety issues they discover in the course of their employment. The company claimed that Nguyen’s discovery request sought irrelevant information, because whether a food-processing worker is illegally in the country or not has nothing to do with food safety. The judge disagreed, finding that the information sought was relevant, and ordering it produced.
“This common sense ruling has wide ramifications,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Unlike legal immigrants, illegal aliens are not medically checked at the border, and they often may come from places where diseases are prevalent that are virtually unknown in the United States. This ruling shows the risks employers across the food industry run if they retaliate against or threaten workers who expose their use of illegal-alien labor. It thus creates an incentive for these employers not to hire illegal aliens in the first place.”
The case is Nguyen v. Quality Sausage Company, LLC, No. 4:19-cv-00150 (N.D. Tex.).
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