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Hiring Undocumented Workers: The Stakes Just Went Up for Business

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Mar 29, 2007 | 0 Comments

A federal judge in California has sentenced two corporate executives to significant criminal penalties for knowingly hiring illegal aliens to work at their company, after they pled guilty.   The AP reports that Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz sentenced the founder and chairman, and a manager, of Golden State Fence Co. to a combination of house arrest and community service.  He also imposed six-figure fines.

The charges against the two carried a maximum penalty of five years in jail, and prosecutors had pressed for incarceration.

Judge Moskowitz refused to impose jail time, apparently because the defendants would have been the first ever to be incarcerated for knowingly hiring illegals.  But the judge made his thinking clear:

"Prosecution is long overdue in this area," Moskowitz said. "Honestly, the government's efforts have been at the border, not with the employer. Obviously, the government has signaled a change with this case."

In other words, the next employer prosecuted might not get off so easily.

Here's what is sobering about this case for business owners and managers.  If you didn't follow the link above to Golden State Fence Co., do it now.  It's worth your time.  Two things stand out.  First, Golden State Fence is not the size of General Electric.  It's obviously not much different than tens of thousands of other small businesses in New Jersey and elsewhere around the country.  Second, read the notice at the bottom of the home page about how Golden State Fence "encourages" others in its industry to work to hire only properly documented workers.  That's a warning, possibly placed there at the request of the government as part of the plea bargain. 

In short, this could happen to anyone, and the government's enforcement policy has gone beyond the stage of a gentle slap on the wrist.  They've gotten serious.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Finally, although this case arose in the Southern District of California, it has a New Jersey connection.  Although Judge Moskowitz has been on the bench in California for many years, he is a Jersey boy and Rutgers grad.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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