Appellate Court Confirms Oyster Bay’s Day Laborer Law As Unconstitutional

Oyster Bay Town Hall (Photo/Wikimedia Commons/Antony-22)

Confirming the unconstitutionality of the Town of Oyster Bay’s ordinance against day laborers, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Tuesday to uphold a federal court decision that permanently struck down the law which infringed on the First Amendment right of free speech.

In 2009, the town enacted a local law that prohibited standing on streets and sidewalks to solicit work, while also preventing motorists from stopping to hire solicitors or offer them work.

Though the law’s stated purpose was to mitigate “the dangers of obstruction, distraction and delays of traffic caused by the solicitation of employment by pedestrians,” the 2nd Circuit determined that the record actually showed the town’s true intent was to regulate the day laborers.

Leading the legal charge were Latino rights groups the Workplace Project and Centro de La Comunidad de Hispana de Locust Valley.

“The Workplace Project is celebrating a victory today for all the day laborers in Oyster Bay and all of Long Island,” said Lilliam Juarez, director of the Workplace Project. “The court’s decision sends a clear message that all localities have to respect the constitutional rights of the day laborers in freely finding work.”

In 2010, the Workplace Project and Centro sued the Town of Oyster Bay and supervisor John Venditto, leading the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to impose a preliminary injunction to stop the law. The town appealed, but the 2nd Circuit upheld the decision back then, as well.

Residents at the time had complained that the day laborer presence brought about conditions that undermined quality of life in the area. But, even after the law was passed, it was never enforced and no one was ever charged with violating it, the court found.

As of Tuesday’s deadline, the Town of Oyster Bay did not respond to a request for comment.

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Jano Tantongco is the online editor of Long Island Wins. He's previously worked in community journalism as a staff reporter for The Long Islander and The Queens Courier. He aims to pursue truth through a combination of rational inquiry and intuition. He also enjoys bossa nova, road trips and zen philosophy.