This lawsuit challenges an ordinance in Oyster Bay, N.Y. that targets a group of predominantly Latino day laborers who make their living soliciting work in the Long Island town. The lawsuit was filed on May 18, 2010 by the New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of the Centro de la Comunidad Hispana de Locust Valley and the Workplace Project – two Long Island organizations that protect the rights of Latino day laborers. The lawsuit was filed against the town of Oyster Bay and Town Supervisor John Venditto. It maintains that the ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Enacted in September 2009, purportedly to address traffic and pedestrian safety, the ordinance prohibits standing on the sidewalk to solicit employment and bars motorists from stopping to solicit employment or hire workers. The ordinance criminalizes a wide variety of constitutionally protected speech that presents no threat to traffic safety, such as students soliciting cars for a high school carwash fundraiser.
For nearly two decades, day laborers have gathered in Oyster Bay, particularly the Hamlet of Locust Valley and the Village of Farmingdale, to find work. The ordinance has had a devastating effect on the workers, who typically depend on temporary jobs to feed themselves and their families, and frequently lack transportation to seek work elsewhere. Local lawmakers and police officials have never explained why current road safety laws – such as New York State's vehicle and traffic laws – are inadequate to protect motorists or pedestrians. At the public hearing, no resident or Oyster Bay Town Board member indicated that a single traffic accident had occurred as a result of a day laborer soliciting work. The legislative record on the ordinance contains no evidence that the presence of day laborers causes traffic problems.
On May 20, 2010, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the ordinance. The ruling was a preliminary assessment that the law is likely to be found unconstitutional and that the right to free speech should be protected while the court further considers the matter. Weeks later, the judge granted a preliminary injuction barring the law's enforcement. The county has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On April 26, 2011, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit unanimously upheld the preliminary injunction and remanded the case to the district court for trial.
E.D.N.Y., Index No. CV-10 2262 (direct)