Department of Justice Announces Settlement With Florida Synagogue Over I-9 Related Discrimination

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced it reached a settlement agreement with a synagogue located in Boca Raton, Florida. The deal addresses claims of the latter discriminating against non-U.S. citizens in completing employment eligibility verification processes. In addition, according to the DOJ’s investigations, the synagogue’s preschool also discriminated against non-U.S. citizens it hired to staff the school.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division states, “Employers cannot discriminate against workers by asking them for specific documents to prove their permission to work based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin. Instead, employers must allow all employees, regardless of their citizenship status, to provide any valid, acceptable document of their choice to prove their permission to work.”

Employers must verify the new hires’ documentation proving their identity and authorization to work in the U.S. The documentation must be confirmed within three days of hiring the employees. This process is the Employment Eligibility Verification, otherwise known as the Form I-9. However, employers must accept any facially valid documentation the new hires provide. It is crucial to remember that employers cannot request further specific or additional documentation.

The DOJ received a tip about the organization violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision forbids employers from discriminating against workers based on their place of origin, immigration status, and citizenship status. Therefore, requesting additional or specific documentation based on the above qualities violates the provision. The Employee Rights Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division enforces these requirements.

The DOJ’s investigation found that the organization had, on two distinct occasions, discriminated against lawful permanent residents. In both cases, the organization requested specific documentation showing their authorization to work in the U.S. despite making no such requests of non-U.S. citizens. Under the settlement agreement, the synagogue will pay $4,144 in civil penalties, make policy changes to comply with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and provide training for properly completing the Form I-9 process.

As this case shows, the Employment Eligibility Verification process can be complicated and a potential minefield for litigation. The best way to help prevent mistakes and the legal consequences that come with them is to invest in an electronic I-9 management tool. This electronic system can help guide employers through every step of the I-9 process and ensure that forms and documentation are stored securely for review at any time.

Make things a little less complicated for your business by automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.