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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. DOJ Settles Case Under U.S. Workers Initiative

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of Department of Justice (DOJ) and Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado, reached a settlement agreement. The settlement resolves a lawsuit the IER filed against the company on September 28, 2017, alleging the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The settlement is part of the DOJ’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers.

    The lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. According to the complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. For instance, the complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them. Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers. For more information on the lawsuit, see my prior blog entry at http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10157...t-U-S-Citizens.

    Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not enough qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.

    The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500 to the United States; undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; revise employment policies to assure that Crop Production does not discriminate on the basis of citizenship, and clarify that H-2A visa holders may only be hired in the absence of any qualified and available U.S. workers; and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for a two-year period. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

    For answers to many other questions related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim for $100,00 Against Vegetable Processing Plant

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Justice Department has reached a settlement agreement with Washington Potato Company of Pasco, Washington, which will cost the employer $100,000. The agreement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether Washington Potato discriminated against work-authorized immigrants in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The investigation revealed that Washington Potato routinely requested work-authorized non-U.S. citizens present specific documents to confirm their status, such as Permanent Resident Cards or Employment Authorization Documents while verifying their authorization to work at the plant. However, they did not subject U.S. citizens to such requests. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on the employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin. This is commonly referred to as document abuse or unfair documentary practices.

    This is the second settlement agreement in 2017 between the IER and Washington Potato as a May 2017 settlement resolved similar discriminatory conduct by Washington Potato at another facility in Pasco, Washington. See blog entry of May 22, 2017 - Fruit and Vegetable Processor Agrees to Pay $225,000 to Settle Discrimination Lawsuit. http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?9904-...nation-Lawsuit.

    Under the settlement, Washington Potato will pay a civil penalty of $100,000 to the United States, train its staff by viewing an IER webinar presentation and USCIS webinar on E-Verify for Existing Users, review and revise any existing employment policies that relate to the employment eligibility verification process so that they prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for 30 months.

    The allegation of having different standards for U.S. citizens than non-U.S. citizens is a fairly common error by employers. However, with training by an immigration attorney, well-versed in employer compliance, these errors can easily be avoided. For more information on this issue and many others related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Panda Express

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department announced it reached a settlement agreement with Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (Panda Express), a restaurant chain with over 1,800 locations in the United States. The agreement resolves an investigation into whether Panda Express discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when reverifying their authorization to work.

    The investigation concluded Panda Express unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) expired, while not making similar requests to U.S. citizen workers when their documents expired. The investigation also revealed that Panda Express routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to reverify their ongoing work authorization despite evidence they had already provided sufficient documentation. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Panda Express will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the United States, establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices, undergo IER-provided training to HR employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, revise employment policies, modify its electronic I-9 system, train HR personnel on the M-274 Handbook for Employers and the USCIS E-Verify manual, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.

    This settlement is the largest to date in calendar year 2017. Employers should be trained by immigration counsel on a regular basis of immigration compliance issues.
  4. IER Settles Discrimination Claims Against Carrillo Farm

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    The Immigration and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement with Carrillo Farm Labor, LLC, an onion farm in Deming, New Mexico, resolving an investigation of complaints that Carrillo Farm discriminated against U.S. citizens due to a hiring preference for foreign visa workers. This settlement is part of a Department of Justice enforcement initiative dedicated to combatting employment discrimination against U.S. workers.

    After investigating complaints filed on behalf of two U.S. citizens, IER determined that Carrillo Farm denied U.S. citizens employment in 2016 because it wanted to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. Under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. citizens because of their citizenship status.

    The settlement agreement requires Carrillo Farm to pay a civil penalty of $5000 to the United States, undergo IER-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Carrillo Farm agreed to pay a total of $44,000 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

    This is an interesting twist on discrimination – finding an employer discriminated against U.S. citizens. This settlement fits in well with DOJ’s recent announcement warning employers not to discriminate against U.S. citizens.
  5. Fruit and Vegetable Processor Agrees to Pay $225,000 to Settle Discrimination Lawsuit

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    Washington Potato Company and Pasco Processing, LLC and the Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Civil Rights Division, have reached a settlement agreement, whereby the companies agreed to pay over $225,000 to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by IER in November 2016. The complaint alleged Washington Potato directed and controlled Pasco Processing’s hiring practices, including the alleged discriminatory documentary practices, which violated the antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    According to the November 2016 complaint, filed with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), from at least November 2013 until at least October 2016, Washington Potato and Pasco Processing routinely requested lawful permanent residents (LPRs) hired at Pasco Processing produce a specific document – a Permanent Resident Card (also referred to as a Green Card) – to prove their work authorization, while not requesting a specific document from U.S. citizens (USCs). From November 2013 until October 2016, the complaint alleged the companies hired over 2,000 USCs and approximately 800 LPRs. Of the LPRs hired, 99.5% produced a List A document – their green card - to establish their work authorization while only 2% of the USCs hired produced a List A document, such as a U.S. passport or U.S. passport card.

    Prior to the settlement, the companies asserted the high rate of List A documents for LPRs was because these employees did not possess List B or C documents. However, the government alleged many LPR employees presented List B and C documents but the companies requested non-U.S. citizen employees provide a specific document, a green card, for completion of the I-9 Form while it allowed USCs the flexibility to present a variety of documents.

    Under the settlement agreement, Washington Potato Company and Pasco Processing are required to pay civil penalties of $225,750, revise policies to eliminate any discrimination in the I-9 form and E-Verify procedures, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two and one-half years.

    This is another example of the hefty civil penalties imposed by the IER, formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC). In this case, it appears the companies decided not to litigate the complaint even though prior negotiations before the issuance of a complaint had been unsuccessful. Although the IER is a much smaller agency than Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often settlement of their cases involves substantial civil penalties and/or back pay. Thus, it is important that companies understand the antidiscrimination provision of the INA in order that they not face this liability. I recommend regular training on the antidiscrimination provision of the INA by immigration counsel.
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