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OSC Settles Discrimination Claim against Sunny Grove Landscaping

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By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser
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The Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) reached a settlement with Sunny Grove Landscaping & Nursery Inc. (Sunny Grove), a landscaping company in Ft. Myers, Florida. The settlement resolves the department’s investigation of Sunny Grove for discrimination against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The investigation found that Sunny Grove discriminated against lawful permanent residents by requiring them to produce permanent resident cards to prove their work authorization, whereas U.S. citizens were permitted to choose whatever valid documentation they wanted to prove their work authorization. Lawful permanent residents do not have to show their permanent resident cards when they start working. Like all workers, they can choose whatever valid documentation they want to establish their employment authorization, and many lawful permanent residents have the same work authorization documents as U.S. citizens.

Under the settlement agreement, Sunny Grove will pay $7,500 in civil penalties to the United States and undergo OSC-provided webinar training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Sunny Grove must review its policies on non-discrimination on the basis of citizenship status and national origin and revise as necessary in order to not discriminate. Sunny Grove must provide the I-9 forms of all non-U.S. citizens on two occasions in the next 12 months. Furthermore, Sunny Grove will be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for one year.

The violations by Sunny Grove are some of the common violations found in OSC investigations. Thus, employers should review their policies and practices to ensure these violations are not occurring. If not, an employer may find itself under investigation by the OSC and paying civil penalties and possible back pay.

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