The Department of Justice reached an agreement with Imagine Schools Inc. of Groveport, Ohio resolving allegations that the company discriminated against an employee in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by firing him during the reverification of his employment eligibility.
A complaint alleged Imagine Schools unlawfully terminated a lawful permanent resident after he failed to produce an unexpired lawful permanent resident card during reverification of his employment eligibility status. The employee had originally presented a valid lawful permanent resident card when he was hired, and alleged he was requested to reverify his work authorization, along with a request for a specific document.
Under the settlement agreement, Imagine Schools agreed to pay $20,169 in backpay plus interest to the discharged employee and $600 in civil penalties to the United States. Imagine Schools also agreed to comply with the law, train its human resources personnel about employers’ responsibilities to avoid discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process, and be subject to reporting and compliance monitory requirements for 18 months.
Under the INA, permanent resident cards and U.S. passports are not subject to reverification in Section 3 of the I-9 form even if they expire after the employee is hired. Furthermore, the INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits discrimination based on citizenship or national origin in the employment eligibility verification process or reverification process.
In the past six months, DOJ, through the Office of Special Counsel, has settled approximately eight cases against employers for allegedly discriminating against employees in violation of the INA. The backpay and civil penalties due on the eight cases is over $350,000 with the University of California at San Diego Medical Center and Onward Healthcare, Inc. paying $115,000 and $100,000, respectively.
Employers must remember there are two separate agencies involved with investigating and prosecuting immigration compliance violations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Office of Special Counsel of the Department of Justice. Thus, employers must be vigilant in complying with immigration laws even though many times it may seem the two agencies are at odds with each other with employers caught in the middle.