The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it had reached an agreement with a Dallas-based company resolving claims that it violated the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision by engaging in discriminatory documentary practices against employment-authorized workers during the employment eligibility verification process. Commonly referred to as “document abuse,” the anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than required to verify employment eligibility, rejecting reasonably genuine-looking documents, or specifying certain documents over others with the purpose of discriminating on the basis of citizenship status or national origin.
The DOJ concluded that the employing company subjected non-U.S. citizen new hires to unlawful demands for specific documentation issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to verify their employment eligibility, while permitting U.S. citizens to present their choice of documentation. The DOJ investigation also revealed that the company selectively used E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of individuals they knew or believed to be non-U.S. citizens or foreign born.
Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Jocelyn Samuels, emphasized that the DOJ is committed to protecting U.S. citizens and work-authorized immigrants from document abuse, stating that “(e)mployers cannot create discriminatory hurdles for work-authorized non-U.S. citizens or naturalized citizens in the employment eligibility verification process, which includes the E-Verify program.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $115,000 in in civil penalties. The company is also required to undergo training on the INA anti-discrimination provision, revise its employment eligibility verification policies, and have its employment eligibility verification practices monitored for one year.
The DOJ, through its Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, vigorously investigates and prosecutes claims of discrimination, and employers found to be engaging in discriminatory activity may be required to pay civil penalties (as this case illustrates) and back pay to injured parties. When reviewing or assessing compliance programs, it is critical that companies examine their hiring policies and practices to avoid discrimination and proactively discuss compliance with experienced legal counsel.