Legal Arizona Workers Act

Frequently Asked Questions

Legal AZ Workers Act

What is the Legal Arizona Workers Act?

The Legal Arizona Workers Act, passed in 2007, is found in Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 23-211 to 23-214.  The Legal Arizona Workers Act allows a County Attorney to bring a civil suit to suspend or revoke state and local Arizona business licenses if a business intentionally or knowingly employed non-citizens that do not have the right to work in the United States (an “unauthorized alien”).

Complaints of violation of the Legal Arizona Workers Act may be filed with the Attorney General or the County Attorney where the violations took place.  The Attorney General or County Attorney will investigate Complaints that a business is employing an unauthorized alien.

Who is “an unauthorized alien?”

Any person that is not a United States citizen or permanent residence and who is not authorized to work in the United States under federal law (8 U.S.C. 1324a(h)(3)).

Does the Legal Arizona Workers Act make it a state crime to employ an unauthorized alien?

No.  It is a federal crime to intentionally or knowingly employ an unauthorized alien, but it is not a state crime because federal law “preempts” (overrules) state law for criminal enforcement of immigration law.   The Legal Arizona Workers Act allows the state in a civil suit to ask for suspension or revocation of many of the licenses necessary to do business in the state of Arizona.

How do I file a Complaint?

You may file a Complaint with the Arizona Attorney General, 1275 West Washington, Phoenix, Arizona 85007 or with the County Attorney in the county where the violation takes place.  In Yavapai County, you may obtain a Complaint Form three different ways: (1) pick up a Complaint Form in person at the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office; (2) call the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office and request that a Complaint Form be mailed to you; or (3) download and print the Complaint Form from the Yavapai County Attorney’s Website.

Complaints made to the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office must be in writing and delivered or mailed to the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, Attention: Legal Workers Compliance Division.

What happens when I file a Complaint with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office?

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office will investigate the Complaint to determine if a violation of the Legal Arizona Workers Act has occurred.  The investigation will include verification with the federal Department of Homeland Security of the alleged unauthorized alien’s authority to work, and an evaluation of whether the employer intentionally or knowingly employed an unauthorized alien.

Will a civil suit be filed for every Complaint?

No.  The law and court rules require that civil lawsuits to revoke an employer’s licenses be based on reasonable facts that show the business intentionally or knowingly employed an unauthorized alien.  The County Attorney must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation occurred. If the investigation shows that it cannot be proven that the employer intentionally or knowingly employed an unauthorized alien, the civil suit cannot be filed.

What will happen if the court finds a violation?

For a first violation of the statute, the employer will be placed on probation, and depending on the facts of the case, the employer may have its business licenses temporarily suspended.  Terms of probation and suspension vary, and are based on the culpability of the business.  If the court finds the employer knowingly employed an unauthorized worker, the employer will be placed on probation for 3 years.  For an intentional violation, the employer will be placed on probation for 5 years.  The business will be ordered to terminate all unauthorized aliens and report compliance to the County Attorney and to report to the County Attorney all new employees hired during the term of probation.

For a second violation during probation, the employer will have all licenses necessary to do business in the location the violation occurred permanently revoked. If the business does not have a specific location for their business, their general state licenses will be revoked.

What licenses are covered?

The law defines license as “any agency permit, certificate, approval, registration, charter or similar form of authorization that is required by law and that has been issued by any agency for the purpose of operating a business in this state.”  “License” includes business formation documents under Arizona Revised Statutes Title 10 and Title 29, and transaction privilege licenses under Title 42.

An agency is defined as “any agency, department, board or commission of this state or a county, city or town that issues a license for purposes of operating a business in this state.”

What licenses are excluded?

The law exempts professional licenses and licenses issued under Arizona Revised Statutes Title 45 (water regulation) and Title 49 (regulation of the environment).

What happens if a false or frivolous Complaint is filed?

A person that files a false and frivolous Complaint is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor and will be criminally prosecuted. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $500 per individual and up to $2,000 per enterprise, and up to 30 days in the county jail.

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