It always pays to learn from the mistakes of others! A large clothing retailer recently entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) following an allegation that the company discriminated against a non-US citizen in violation of federal immigration laws, including the Immigration and Nationality Act. What did the employer do wrong? It required the employee to produce a green card as part of the I-9 process. As a reminder, employers are not permitted to ask for a specific form of identification when collecting I-9’s. Employees can choose from the available options suggested on the form, and employers must take what they get.

The DOJ settlement includes a hefty back-pay award and DOJ monitoring of the company’s employment verification practices for the next two years.

So, how might this settlement affect your business? The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing and recruitment. Retaliation and intimidation for reporting discrimination also is prohibited. Companies should reevaluate and monitor their I-9 verification and re-verification practices. Avoid asking for specific or additional documents from new hires and when re-verifying an existing employee.  Stick to the form – and if you have questions, talk to your lawyer!