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Arias v. Raimondo

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 22, 2017

Jose Arnulfo Arias, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Anthony Raimondo, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted March 14, 2017 San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, D.C. No. 2:13-cv-00904-TLN-EFB Troy L. Nunley, District Judge, Presiding

          Christopher Ho (argued) and Stacy Villalobos, The Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, San Francisco, California; Esmeralda Zendejas and Blanca A. Bañuelos, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., Stockton, California; Michael L. Meuter, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., Salinas, California; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Scott P. Dixler (argued) and Peder K. Batalden, Horvitz & Levy LLP, Burbank, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Nora A. Preciado and Joshua T. Stehlik, National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, California; Jessica Hahn, National Immigration Law Center, Washington, D.C.; for Amicus Curiae National Immigration Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Centro Legal de la Raza, Farmworker Justice, Jobs with Justice, National Employment Law Project, New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and Worksafe Inc.

          Before: Stephen S. Trott, Kim McLane Wardlaw, and Ronald M. Gould, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [*]

         Labor Law

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of a retaliation claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

         The plaintiff alleged that after he filed suit against his employers in state court, the employers' attorney, acting as their agent, retaliated against him by planning for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take him into custody at a scheduled deposition and then to remove him from the United States. The panel held that unlike the Fair Labor Standards Act's wage and hour provisions, its retaliation provisions apply to "any person" and do not require that a defendant be the plaintiff's employer. The panel remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          TROTT, Circuit Judge

         Can an employer's attorney be held liable for retaliating against his client's employee because the employee sued his client for violations of workplace laws? The district court's answer was no. We respectfully disagree.

         We have jurisdiction over this timely appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we reverse and remand.

         I

         Background

         In 1995, plaintiff José Arnulfo Arias went to work as a milker for Angelo Dairy. Three Angelos owned and operated the dairy: Luis, Maria, and Joe ("Angelos"). When the Angelos hired Arias, they did not complete and file a Form I-9 ("I-9") regarding his employment eligibility in the United States.

         An I-9 is a document required by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), a component of our Department of Homeland Security. USCIS explains the purpose of the I-9 and process as follows:

Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. . . . Employers must retain Form I-9 for a designated period and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9 (last updated Jan. 23, 2017).

         Instead of complying with federal law, the Angelos wielded it as a weapon to confine Arias in their employ. When Arias informed Luis Angelo in 1997 that he had been offered a position with another dairy, Luis "responded that if [Arias] left to work at the other dairy, [Luis] would report the other dairy to federal immigration authorities as an employer of undocumented workers, " which Arias was. This threat caused Arias to forego his other employment opportunity and to remain with the Angelos.

         In 2006, Arias sued Angelo Dairy in California state court. Arias alleged causes of action on behalf of himself and other employees under California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq., for a variety of workplace violations, including failure to provide overtime pay and rest and meal periods. Later, he added a cause of action under California's Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 ("PAGA"), Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq. The Superior Court struck his representative claims in the UCL and PAGA causes of action. The Court of Appeal later issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Superior Court to vacate its order as to the PAGA cause of action. See Arias v. Superior Court, 63 Cal.Rptr.3d 272 (Cal.Ct.App. 2007), aff'd, 46 Cal.4th 969 (2009). The Superior Court then set a trial date of August 15, 2011.

         II

         The Plot Thickens

         On June 1, 2011, ten weeks before the state court trial, the Angelos' attorney, Anthony Raimondo, set in motion an underhanded plan to derail Arias's lawsuit. Raimondo's plan involved enlisting the services of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") to take Arias into custody at a scheduled deposition and then to remove him from the United States. A second part of Raimondo's plan was to block Arias's California Rural Legal Assistance attorney from representing him. This double barrel plan was captured in email messages back and forth between Raimondo, Joe Angelo, and ICE's forensic auditor Kulwinder Brar. Arias quoted these revealing exchanges in his current complaint:

23. On June 1, 2011, Defendant RAIMONDO emailed Immigration and Custom Enforcement ("ICE") Forensic Auditor Kulwinder Brar, an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In this email, Defendant RAIMONDO supplied Brar with information about Plaintiff's identity, and asked Brar to ...

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