Busy Month For Justice Department's Enforcement Of Workforce Immigration Laws

Busy Month For Justice Department's Enforcement Of Workforce Immigration Laws

October has been a busy month of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (“OSC”). In the past two weeks alone, OSC has settled four cases involving investigations into companies found to have discriminated against work authorized non-citizens and filed a lawsuit to enforce a previously entered into settlement agreement. The four settlements amounted to over $500,000 in civil fines, $140,000 in back pay, and included mandates that each company implement new immigration compliance training and policies. The lawsuit is related to Nebraska Beef ‘s $200,000 settlement agreement it entered into with OSC earlier in the year, in resolution of an investigation into the company’ discriminatory practices against work-authorized non-citizens.

OSC is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). As stated on their website, “the provision protects work-authorized individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of citizenship status or national origin, including discrimination in hiring, firing and the employment eligibility verification process.” This can pose problems and confusion to business owners who are seeking to make good faith efforts at implementing a comprehensive immigration workforce compliance policy, because in doing so they can inadvertently subject themselves to discriminatory liability. For example, an employer is subject to a discrimination claim if they require non-citizen employees to produce different types of work authorization proof than that of citizens. Therefore, an internal I-9 audit should focus not only on the type of work authorization documents being collected, but also whether those documents are being collected consistently for all employees.

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