Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was ratified in 1935 to guarantee the employees’ rights and protect them against employers who imposition unfair labor. Immigrant employees have the same rights under NLRA as citizens of the US and are supposed to be protected from wage violations, namely wage thefts, and can get back pay or front pay. However, labor laws are outdated, which puts employees at a disadvantage. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces labor law regarding employers’ labor violations. Still, outdated laws impede charges processing as unfair labor practices increase. Moreover, NLRB does not have power over employers’ improprieties if their employees violate any immigration laws. Numerous immigrant workers cannot get back pay or front pay due to the ineffectiveness of NLRA and other labor laws.

The main reason for instability in the US employees’ economic security is outdated laws. According to senator Sherrod Brown (2017), “federal minimum wage law has not been changed since 2007, and it no longer ensures families live above the poverty line” (p. 13). The same can be stated about NLRA, which has to be updated following modern employer-employee relationships (Brown, 2017). These issues contribute to why employees cannot get back or front pay. Back pay is wages and benefits employers fail to provide to their employees due to labor violations, notably unlawful pay cuts, dismissals, and other financial machinations regarding salaries. If employers cannot reinstate or rehire workers that they wrongfully terminated, front pay is due, which is financial compensation for employees looking for a new job. The US needs workers, but the inability to get paid what is owed leads to an immigrant workforce decrease.

As a result, the value of work has been declining in recent decades. In this regard, Brown (2017) states that “some laws, such as wage theft laws, … do not provide sufficient deterrents to employers or wage recovery for workers” (p. 15). This insufficiency of preventive measures enables employers to devise elaborate fraud schemes that make employment cases concerning back pay favorable to these employers. Additionally, employers can threaten immigrant employees illicitly using their immigrant status, particularly with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration laws.

Experience has shown that NLRA is most ineffective when employees violate immigration laws. An exemplary case is Jose Castro, who had worked at Hoffman Plastic Compounds but was terminated with some of his coworkers for union organizing. A lawsuit had been filed against Hoffman Plastics, and NLRB found that the dismissals were illegal and enforced back pay to fired employees (“Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board,” n.d.). Hoffman Plastics undoubtedly violated NLRA, but Castro turned out to be an illegal immigrant during further arbitration. Hoffman Plastics were to pay more than 66 thousand US dollars to Castro, and they appealed first to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) explicitly prohibits “employers from knowingly hiring employees who do not have legal permission to work” (“Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board,” n.d.). The Supreme Court has denied Castro any back pay, despite clear evidence that the employer violated NLRA and owed the employee.

In conclusion, the labor laws, including NLRA, minimum wage law, and wage theft laws, are outdated and require revision to correspond with current circumstances, namely changes in the economic situation and employer-employee relationships. Immigrant employees are often unable to get back or front pay because of the ineffectiveness of labor laws and employers that take advantage of the immigrant status. The issues lead to the immigrant workforce decrease and decline in the value of work because employees do not have sufficient guarantees to freely exercise their rights relating to labor. In cases of immigrant law violations by the employees, NLRB is powerless and cannot protect said employees’ interests. Immigrant workers do not feel that the US law provides their economic security; therefore, the government has to address these issues.


Brown, S. (2017). Working too hard for too little: A plan for restoring the value of work in America. United States Senate.

Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board. (n.d.).

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LawBirdie. (2023, April 12). Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft.

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LawBirdie. (2023) 'Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft'. 12 April.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft." April 12, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft." April 12, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Immigration Laws v. Labor Laws: Wage Theft." April 12, 2023.