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OSC Reaches Settlement with Colorado Sheriff; by Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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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.

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