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Eviction & Deportation: Contractors with Unusual Painter Struggles

Painting Contractor #1 allegedly threatened to “turn in” his undocumented workers who complained about not being paid overtime. Painting Contractor #2 hired and housed two painters from Guatemala and is now battling in court to evict them.

8 February, 2024

Two interesting stories about how painting contractors are handling foreign-born workers – some documented, some undocumented. One contractor is accused of threatening to deport workers after they complained about not being paid overtime wages. Another contractor is trying to evict two painters he brought from Guatemala and to whom he provided temporary, weekly housing.

Hiring, Housing and Evicting Painters

In story one, a painting contractor hired and housed two painters from Guatemala, sponsoring their temporary work visas and offering them housing in a home with other migrant workers.

According to the painter, he was fired after being injured on the job. And was evicted after filing a workers compensation case. The second painter from Guatemala makes similar claims. The contractor denies such claims.

The painting contractor says the painters lived in the house under a “weekly, oral lease.” But the judge in the case questioned whether such a lease existed and ruled the painters can stay in the house, for now. In essence, the judge decided the painters cannot be evicted because the terms of the lease cannot be determined – they cannot be found to have violated terms of a non-existent lease.

“They told me to remember I was undocumented”

Story Two: As you may know, some companies employ undocumented workers. You may not be surprised to know that some employers use the threat of deportation – or threat of disclosing a worker’s documentation status – to keep workers quiet or compliant. In some cases, employers fail to pay workers overtime wages, workers complain, and the employer threatens to “turn them in.”

Last year, according to a report, federal immigration officials created an expedited deportation protection process for workers facing immigration-related intimidation by abusive employers.

And now, workers at a Las Vegas painting company are the first to receive “deportation relief and work permit renewals.” The program is called Deferred Action for Labor Enforcement.

Workers at the painting company began reporting wage theft and retaliation in 2019. Former employees won a settlement of $3.68 million for stolen wages. At least one former employee accused the company of threatening her in response to her wage complaints. “They told me to remember that I was undocumented and that I could end up having immigration issues if I didn’t do as I was told,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter where you were born or how you arrived in the United States, everyone has labor rights. Unfortunately, wage theft is still a reality in many workplaces,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. 

The deferred action program provides two years of deportation protection and a legal work permit for unauthorized workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, the violation of labor rights.

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