Last week, after a lengthy investigation that involved a number of LAF’s clients, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against three employment agencies and two suburban restaurants for alleged civil right violations and wage violations. The suit alleges that the employment agencies paid Mexican immigrants as little as $3.50 an hour to work 12- to 14-hour shifts in Chinese restaurants and live in squalid conditions. You can read more about this case and the conditions the workers faced in Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and on the Attorney General’s website.
Many of the workers the Attorney General is now fighting for came to LAF for help over the past several years. Many were fighting deportation and sought the help of LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. Lisa Palumbo, IWR’s Immigration Supervisor, talked about the experience of LAF’s clients. “Our clients are fearful,” she said to the Chicago Tribune. “The vast majority were undocumented,” giving employment agencies opportunity for exploitation, including placing workers in small towns as far afield as Montana and Idaho as well as other restaurants in Chicago. Palumbo said some of those she has spoken with have been fired and kicked onto the street “with nothing but the shirts on their backs” and nowhere else to go except to another potentially abusive situation. And to Crain’s, she explains that some of her clients are the victims of trafficking: “Once an employer controls where you live, like in this particular situation, it can make the person’s isolation and control much more significant than if you go home every day.”
Regardless of their immigration status, however, state and federal laws protect the basic rights of workers, and, as Madigan notes, “my office fights to protect Illinois workers and their most basic rights. The employment agencies and restaurants in this lawsuit are exploiting workers through discrimination and inhumane conditions, violating both their civil rights and their state’s wage laws. Their conduct will not be tolerated in this state.”
Read more in Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and on the Attorney General’s website. We’re proud of Lisa’s work for these immigrants, and we’re encouraged to see that the Illinois Attorney General and her office are fighting for justice and human rights on behalf of many of LAF’s clients.