The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) continued its crackdown against discriminatory practices by employers when it announced, on January 24, it had reached a settlement agreement with a Virginia-based insurance company to resolve allegations that the company engaged in immigration-related discrimination. The settlement, like many others since President Biden took office, highlights the administration’s ongoing efforts to target and prosecute discriminatory practices in violation of U.S. immigration law.
Allegations of Discrimination Against a Non-U.S. Worker
According to the press release by the DOJ, the investigation revealed that representatives of the Virginia-based company engaged in discriminatory practices by requesting a non-citizen (who happened to be a lawful permanent resident) to provide a Permanent Resident Card during the hiring process. In fact, the potential employee had already provided legally satisfactory documentation to satisfy the I-9 documentation requirement for new workers in the United States. Of course, pursuant to U.S. immigration law, all employees in the United States have the right to choose which documentation to present when demonstrating their legal status to work in this country.
Additionally, the DOJ investigation concluded that from June 1, 2017, through at least August 1, 2020, the company engaged in discriminatory practices against noncitizens by failing to consider and/or hire them for employment positions based solely on their citizenship status. These practices violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”).
According to the settlement announcement, the company agreed to pay $9,500.00 in civil penalties to the United States and up to $70,000.00 in back pay to affected workers. Additionally, the agreement requires that the company train its employees on the requirements of the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA. Finally, the company will remain subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
Anti-Discrimination Provisions of the Immigration & Nationality Act
The anti-discrimination provisions of the INA can be found at 8 U.S.C § 1324(b) and its associated regulations at 28 C.F.R. Part 44. These provisions prohibit discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in the hiring, firing, recruitment, and referral of workers for a fee. The provisions also outlaw unfair documentary practices, such as the one involved in this case. These laws also make it illegal to retaliate against or intimidate protected persons who file a discrimination-related complaint against the employer. Failure to comply with these laws can result in prosecution, leading to civil penalties and other sanctions.
The DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (“IER”) enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA. As Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the IER noted about this case, “Employers cannot refuse to hire applicants based on their citizenship status except when they are authorized by law to do so. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against workers when verifying their permission to work.” As demonstrated by prior posts on this blog, enforcement of these laws has been steady under the Biden administration.
Discrimination Claims Under the Biden Administration
The Biden administration continues to fight discriminatory practices by employers, and as this settlement highlights, the consequences of violating immigration law can be incredibly costly. Accordingly, employers seeking to navigate the complexities of immigration law must exercise their due diligence and consult an attorney.