LOS ANGELES – A multi-national tech company based in Northern California illegally discriminated in employment against Dreamers and other immigrants who are authorized to work in the U.S., according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Sandy Vasquez, a 28-year-old immigrant from Mexico who is authorized to work in the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and is suing VMware Inc. for violating state and federal laws.
“For a sophisticated California-based employer to violate the clear and explicit prohibitions in state law is utterly inexcusable,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “VMware should compensate each and every immigrant who was affected by its sloppy and discriminatory practices.”
VMware is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits intentional discrimination based on alienage, and California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), which prohibits labor code violations.
VMware violated a section of the California labor code that prohibits employers from “refus[ing] to honor . . . work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work.”
In January 2018, Vasquez, applied for a position as a Technical Support Engineer for VMware, a Palo Alto-based tech company that provides cloud computing software. A recruiter for the company reached out to Vasquez to set up an interview and told Vasquez she would be a good fit for the position. During the interview, the recruiter asked Vasquez if she was a U.S. citizen, and the recruiter terminated the interview when Vasquez replied that she was authorized to work under DACA.
On July 20, 2018, MALDEF filed a PAGA notice on behalf of Vasquez, informing the California Labor Workforce Development Agency of Vasquez’s intent to sue. The LWDA did not respond to Vasquez’s notice, perfecting Vasquez’s right to sue VMware under PAGA.
“I don’t want other DACA recipients to go through this,” said Vasquez, who is currently employed. “It’s not easy to obtain DACA, and employers shouldn’t be able to deny us the right to work simply because they choose to ignore that we have a work permit. This undermines both our ability to survive and the DACA initiative.”
The lawsuit seeks certification of a class of all non-citizens who were authorized to work in the United States, including other holders of deferred action and TPS holders, among others, who were denied employment or deterred from applying by VMware after Jan. 30, 2013 because of their immigration status. The class allegations are based on VMware’s policy and practice, which is reflected in previously posted job requirements that state: “You must be a U.S. Citizen or have a transferable visa (H-1B, Green Card, etc.) to apply.” This is an indication of a policy to not hire DACA-authorized candidates, said MALDEF staff attorney Julia Gomez.
“VMware’s practice and policy of excluding DACA recipients and other qualified and bright individuals with work authorization from employment is illegal,” said Gomez. “What’s more, VMware’s actions unnecessarily subjected these individuals, likely young students graduating from college, to emotional distress caused by uncertain employment prospects.”
The lawsuit is the fifth filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. MALDEF has filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of DACA recipients who were denied employment in California, New Jersey and Florida.
The case is Sandy Vasquez v.VMware, Inc., Case No.5:19-cv-02182, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.
View the complaint here.