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By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser
The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), within the Justice Department, reached an agreement with Luis Esparza Services, Inc. (LES), a farm labor contractor based in Bakersfield, California, resolving claims that the company discriminated against individuals because of citizenship status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The investigation found LES required work-authorized non-U.S. citizens to produce documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security as a condition of employment, but did not require the same of U.S. citizen workers. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on workers during the employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status.
Under the settlement agreement, LES will pay $320,000 in civil penalties, which is the largest civil penalty the Justice Department has ever secured to resolve a discrimination claim under the INA. Additionally, LES will compensate a worker who lost wages due to LES’s employment eligibility verification practices; undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; revise its employment eligibility verification policies; and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices for three years.
The Justice Department, through the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has reached an agreement with the Arapahoe County, Colorado Office of the Sheriff resolving allegations that the Sheriff’s Office violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The investigation found reasonable cause to believe the Office of the Sheriff improperly restricted law enforcement positions to U.S. citizens (USCs), notwithstanding the fact that no law, regulation, executive order or government contract authorized it to restrict employment in this manner. A former employee, who filed a lawsuit, was a USC and had documentation that showed her work authorization, but not her citizenship. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision permits employers to limit jobs to U.S. citizens only where the employer is required to do so by law, regulation, executive order, or government contract. Under the settlement agreement, the Office of the Sheriff’s employment eligibility verification practices will be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department and reporting requirements for a period of three years, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $500 in civil penalties to the United States, and inform other affected non-U.S. citizen applicants that they could re-apply for available law enforcement positions. The Office of the Sheriff had already addressed the identified victim’s back pay claims through an earlier agreement based on her private lawsuit. Let this case be a lesson to employers – if there is no law, regulation, executive order, or government contract which requires the employee be a USC, do not restrict the position to only USCs.