SAN JOSE (KPIX) - Some Bay Area employers are accused of retaliating against employees who are undocumented immigrants. Threats of violence and deportation are on the rise.
"We have had employers leave voicemail, the threats are very bold," says Ruth Silver Taube.
The Santa Clara University law professor and workers' rights attorney says her clients live in fear.
"They have nightmares," says Taube. "It's very difficult for them to get up every morning and to go to work because they're so terrified."
Last year, the state Labor Commissioner received 95 immigration-related retaliation complaints. The year before there were only 20, and in 2014 there were just two.
"With this climate it's more likely that employers will continue to threaten people and to assume that there's no consequences," says Taube.
But Taube says there are very hefty consequences and the labor commission is prioritizing these cases and processing them within thirty days. If an employer is found liable for threatening a worker they're slapped with a $10,000 fine for each threat.
"It is backfiring against these employers," she says.
Santa Clara County is right behind Los Angeles with the most complaints filed in the state last year.
Taube says sometimes employers are threatening workers who aren't even undocumented immigrants. They target them simply because of their race.
"It really tears your heart up," says Taube. "It is very hard to see this happening to our clients."
As reported first by SanJoseInside.com, Taube is handling a case right now of a housekeeper who complained about back wages, but was then threatened with deportation by her boss.
Taube says when the claims do make it to the Labor Commission, the agency doesn't ask about immigration status.
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