The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices ("Office of Special Counsel") and United Continental Holdings, Inc./United Airlines, Inc. ("United Airlines"), now United Airlines and formerly Continental Airlines settled claims over violations that Continental Airlines allegedly violated provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") relating to Employment Eligibility Verification. Specifically, the airline is alleged to have requested more documents of US lawful permanent residents in that it unlawfully reverified their employment authorization documents. The claims resulted from an investigation dating from July 2013 and were only limited to Continental Airlines' practices and not United Airlines.
The airline disputed the charges and settled the claims for $270,000. Of this amount $55,000 was set aside as a fund for Continental Airlines employees that were negatively affected by the airlines' practices. The airline must notify these employees and send them a Back Pay Notice Letter providing them an opportunity to come forth and receive compensation for their damages. Additionally, as part of the settlement, the airline agreed to:
- Not engage in discriminatory practices on the basis of national origin or citizenship;
- Not request more documents than are necessary in the Employment Eligibility Verification process;
- Accept documents that appear to be facially valid;
- For a period of two years, ensure that employees that are responsible for administering the Employment Eligibility Verification process have the most current version of the Form I-9 Employer Handbook;
- Ensure that employees that are responsible for administering the Employment Eligibility Verification process receive adequate training;
- Review and revise its internal employment practices to ensure that they do not violate the INA;
- Notify the Office of Special Counsel of any changes to employment practices and allow the Office to comment;
- Ensure that the airlines' internal reporting software does not include the expiration of Permanent Resident Cards; and
- For a period of two years, provide the Office of Special Counsel with a list of all employees with expiring employment authorization that must be reverified with the Office reserving the right to inspect these Forms I-9.
All employers in the United States must verify the employment authorization of each employee hired after November 6, 1986. This employment verification process is completed via the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This process is to ensure that US employers are hiring only individuals who have valid authorization to work in the United States. As part of the I-9 process, employees must indicate in Section 1 of the Form I-9 whether they are US citizens, US noncitizen nationals, Lawful Permanent Residents or Aliens with limited employment authorization. Lawful permanent residents have permanent authorization to work in the United States and therefore should not have their employment authorization reverified. Many employers are confused by this because many lawful permanent residents provide a Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card that contains an expiration date.