On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that after investigation, it had reached a settlement with LNK International, Inc. (LNK), a New York-based company that manufactures over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, regarding discriminatory hiring practices. This settlement was reached to resolve the DOJ’s claim that LNK violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens.
“Employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their citizenship status, immigration status, or national origin when verifying that employees are authorized to work in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department looks forward to working with LNK to ensure its compliance with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision so that all employees are subject to the same rules for proving their ability to work in the United States.”
DOJ’s Investigation on LNK’s Discriminatory Hiring
The investigation revealed that LNK routinely requested certain specific documents from lawful permanent residents as proof of authorization to work in the U.S. The investigation determined that LNK required employees with lawful permanent residence status to show their card as proof of ability to work, whereas they gave the U.S. citizens a whole list of acceptable documents to choose from. LNK also had an unlawful policy of requiring refugees and asylees with valid work authorization to show their work authorization documents from time to time, even though the non-citizens had already established their ongoing authorizations.
Under the terms of the settlement, LNK will pay the department $220,000 as a civil penalty. Further, LNK will train its employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and provide extensive training in the Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER) Section. LNK will also be subject to a three-year timeframe to comply with the settlement agreement.
The Civil Rights Division’s IER is the authority responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision in the INA. The statute prohibits discrimination in nature – discrimination based on citizenship status, national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, recruitment or referral for a fee, unfair documentary process, retaliation, and intimidation.
Work Authorization for Non-Citizens in the United States
Several categories of non-citizens have the authorization to work legally in the U.S. These non-citizen categories include legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, non-citizens with work visas, dependents of certain non-citizens, etc. According to federal law, citizens and non-citizens alike can choose from among a list of documents to prove that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S. The INA’s anti-discrimination policies prohibit employers from discriminating against non-citizen employees.