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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Litigation Involving Nebraska Beef’s Reneged Settlement Continues

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    A U.S. District Judge in Nebraska has ruled in favor of the Department of Justice’s Show Cause Motion in the never-ending saga of Nebraska Beef Ltd. reneging on a settlement that it reached in August 2015 with the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (now the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER)) of the Department of Justice.

    As you may recall, Nebraska Beef and the OSC reached a settlement concerning whether Nebraska Beef was discriminating against work-authorized immigrants by requiring non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility in violation of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA). In the settlement, Nebraska Beef agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty.

    However, before the civil penalty was due, a Department of Justice press release stated the government “found” Nebraska Beef to have violated the law. The settlement had stated the OSC had a “reasonable cause to believe” Nebraska Beef had violated the INA. Nebraska Beef asserted the press release’s inaccuracy materially breached the settlement agreement because Nebraska Beef did not admit liability and excused the company’s payment of $200,000.

    Thereafter, the OSC filed for enforcement of the settlement agreement in federal court in Nebraska. The District Court found no material breach occurred and ordered Nebraska Beef to pay the $200,000 and perform all settlement obligations. After an appeal of the order, the Court stayed the company’s obligation to pay the $200,000 civil penalty but not the company’s other obligations – training, reporting, and notifying potential back pay claimants and providing such information to the IER of the DOJ.

    Nebraska Beef did not timely comply with the non-monetary portions of the order even though these provisions had not been stayed. Thus, the DOJ filed a Motion to Show Cause as to why Nebraska Beef was not in contempt of court.

    The District Court granted the government’s motion and ordered Nebraska Beef to show why it should not be held in contempt of court. I will update this case when the Court decides whether Nebraska Beef is in contempt of court.
  2. IER Stays Busy Under Its New Name

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    On January 18, 2017, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) changed its name to Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The newly – named government agency has been busy in its first months of existence.

    Since January 18, 2017, the IER has entered into seven settlement agreements and collected over $300,000 in penalties and $75,000 in backpay.

    Besides these settlement agreements, IER has issued 11 Letters of Resolution to employers. IER issues a Letter of Resolution when after an investigation of a charge, there is insufficient evidence of a violation of the anti-discrimination provision, but there is evidence of the employer having deficiencies in their I-9 form and/or E-Verify compliance. Letters of Resolution may also be issued when an employer quickly resolves an issue by hiring or reinstating the individual in question with backpay. In resolving these investigations, employer often agree to participate in IER-sponsored training and to ensure their Human Resources Staff becomes better trained on I-9 and E-Verify compliance.
  3. DOJ Settles Immigration Claim Against Another Staffing Agency

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    The Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) (formerly known as OSC) has reached a settlement agreement with Provisional Staffing Solutions, a temporary staffing agency located in Cranston, Rhode Island. The agreement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether Provisional Staffing discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    The investigation concluded Provisional Staffing routinely requested non-U.S. citizens present specific identity documents, such as a Permanent Resident Card, to prove their work authorization while not requesting a specific identity document from U.S. citizens. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on the employees’ citizenship or national origin.  Lawful permanents residents and other work-authorized non-U.S. citizens often have the same identity and work authorization documents available to them as U.S. citizens, and may choose from among the acceptable documents to prove they are authorized to work.

    Under the settlement, Provisional Staffing must pay a civil penalty of over $16,000 to the United States, provide a copy of Lists of Acceptable Documents to employees simultaneously with the request for employees to complete their I-9 forms, revise company policies in order that they prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship status or national origin, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel, through the viewing of an IER webinar, on immigration compliance issues, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for the next three years.

    Staffing companies appear to be more likely to violate the antidiscrimination provision of the INA. In the past year, IER has settled with at least five staffing companies concerning allegations of discrimination due to citizenship status.
  4. OCAHO Decides Who and What is Protected from Document Abuse

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC
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    The Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) issued another decision on “document abuse”, which has been renamed “unfair documentary practices”, finding the employer did not commit document abuse against the Charging Party, Doris Rainwater. Rainwater v. Doctor’s Hospice of Georgia, Inc., 12 OCAHO no. 1300 (Apr. 2017).

    Facts

    Ms. Rainwater was employed as a certified nursing assistant at Doctor’s Hospice for several years. At that time, she was a lawful permanent resident (LPR). In November 2013, Doctor’s Hospice conducted an annual review of its employees’ personnel files to ensure none of its employee documentation, such as certifications, had expired. In this review, the Administrator discovered Ms. Rainwater’s LPR card had expired. Thereafter, Ms. Rainwater was informed she was suspended until she could present a valid LPR card.

    Ms. Rainwater contacted the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practice (OSC) (now renamed Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice), who informed her that Doctor’s Hospice’s action was discriminatory. OSC called Doctor’s Hospice and explained even if a LPR card expires, the individual’s LPR status has not ended. During the suspension, Ms. Rainwater told her supervisor, Ms. Charleston, that she had called the Department of Justice. Ms. Charleston reiterated she could not work with an expired LPR card. (It’s unclear whether this conversation occurred before or after OSC’s call to Doctor’s Hospice). Doctor’s Hospice’s Director of Nursing said she received a phone call from the Department of Justice, who said LPR cards never expire. Several days later, Ms. Rainwater was reinstated, but without back pay for the two weeks off.

    When Ms. Rainwater returned to work, she said most of the managers did not speak to her. One manager, Ms. West, allegedly stated the facility had the “best lawyer” and “nobody beat or play with my lawyers.” She also allegedly said “you should have talked to me about his prior to going to the Department of Justice to complain about these things.”

    On January 8, during an ice storm, a pipe burst at this facility causing a shutdown and the layoff of all employees. On February 27, the facility reopened but it was not fully occupied with patients; thus, two employees were not rehired - Ms. Rainwater and one other employee. Doctor’s Hospice asserted Ms. Rainwater was one of the two employees not rehired because of her poor work record and performance. Thereafter, Ms. Rainwater filed a charge with OSC alleging her failure to be rehired was retaliation and the original suspension was also unlawful.

    Suspension Claim

    OCAHO found Ms. Rainwater’s suspension claim failed because the statute only “prohibits an employer from discriminating with respect to hiring, recruitment, referral or discharge.” The statute does not cover certain employment actions, such as suspension, compensation, or shift assignments.

    However, Doctor’s Hospice’s actions in requesting an unexpired LPR card from Ms. Rainwater was determined to be an act of document abuse under 8 U.S.C. §1324b(a)(6). However, Ms. Rainwater is not a protected individual under that section because she was not a recent permanent resident. Ms. Rainwater had been a LPR for almost 10 years. To be covered, individuals must have not held LPR status for no longer than six months beyond becoming eligible to naturalize. Ms. Rainwater became eligible to naturalize approximately five years before the request for an unexpired LPR card.

    Failure to be Rehired Claim

    Concerning the failure to rehire Ms. Rainwater to work when the facility reopened, OCAHO found Ms. Rainwater’s evidence did not support her retaliation claim. Initially, OCAHO noted that even though she was not considered a protected individual for the document abuse claim, OCAHO retained jurisdiction over her retaliation claim. Specifically, Ms. Rainwater engaged in protected conduct when she contacted OSC about her suspension due to an expired LPR card. Furthermore, Doctor’s Hospice knew of the contact through Ms. Rainwater telling Doctor’s Hospice and a telephone call from OSC explaining that LPR cards do not expire.

    OCAHO concluded Ms. Rainwater failed to establish a causal link between her protected conduct and the failure to be rehired. Although the time period between the telephone call to OSC and the termination was less than three months, OCAHO found intervening events – the ice storm, closure of the facility, and subsequent reopening of the facility with less than full capacity - broke the claim of causality in the retaliation claim. OCAHO said these events caused the end of Ms. Rainwater’s employment, not retaliation. Furthermore, the fact that Doctor’s Hospice returned Ms. Rainwater to work in December after the phone call to OSC undercut her assertion of a causal link between contacting OSC and her failure to be rehired. Finally, OCAHO found Doctor’s Hospice comments about Ms. Rainwater’s contact with OSC were not sufficient to establish the causal link. Thus, OCAHO dismissed Ms. Rainwater’s retaliation claim.

    This decision is a firm reminder of who is covered and what is covered by Section 1324b cases. Often, employers are so focused on complying with the I-9 requirements, they inadvertently commit citizenship status discrimination under Section 1324b. One idea to combat this problem is to have an immigration compliance attorney conduct a training session on immigration compliance.

  5. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Florida Company

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    The Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, reached an agreement with Brickell Financial Services Motor Club, Inc., d/b/a Road America Motor Club, Inc. (Road America), headquartered in Miami, Florida. The settlement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether the company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their work authorization.

    The IER concluded, based on its investigation, that Road America routinely requested that lawful permanent residents show their Permanent Resident Cards to prove their work authorization but did not request specific documents from U.S. citizens. The investigation further revealed that Road America required lawful permanent resident employees to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, even though federal rules prohibit this practice. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on the employees’ citizenship or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Road America will pay a civil penalty of $34,200 and pay $1,044 to compensate a worker who lost wages due to its unfair documentary practices. Road America has also agreed to post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.

    Unfortunately, the errors made by Road America are common among many employers. A good immigration training program could avoid these mistakes.
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