Department of Justice Settles With Fast Food Franchisee Over Allegations of Discrimination In the Employment Eligibility Verification Process

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with a fast-food franchise based in San Diego, California. The deal settles the claims of how the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizen employees when completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).

Federal law prohibits employers from requesting excessive documentation when completing employment eligibility verification. Documentation includes the employee’s national origin, immigration status, or citizenship status. According to the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division in the DOJ, U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens have the right to decide which documents they want to establish their authorization to work. The Assistant Attorney General also stated that the Civil Rights Division would continue fighting discrimination based on citizenship, immigration, and national origin. The DOJ looks forward to working with the fast-food franchisee to ensure compliance with the settlement and the law.

The Department of Justice began its investigation of the fast-food franchisee because a worker who is not a U.S. citizen complained that the company would not accept the valid documentation he presented to prove he was authorized to work in the United States. Instead, the franchisee insisted that he provide a different document. The investigation found that the franchisee frequently discriminated against employees who were not U.S. citizens, generally lawful permanent residents. For example, the franchisee requested certain documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security to prove their authorization to work in the U.S. despite the employees offering appropriate documentation. Additionally, the investigation revealed how the franchisee did not allow the aggrieved work without presenting the excess documents. Federal law requires that employees be permitted to submit the documentation they want to prove their authorization to work in the U.S. as long as it is valid.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has an anti-discrimination provision that bans employers from requesting unnecessary documents. Therefore, employees are not required to present documentation about their immigration status, citizenship, or national origin.

The settlement required the franchisee to pay civil penalties of $40,000 to the U.S. to cover the lost wages of the worker who complained. In addition, the franchisee must review and revise employment policies to comply with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision. Furthermore, the franchisee must train the employees responsible for verifying the authorization of employees to work in the U.S.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) enforces the provision concerning anti-discrimination in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This provision bans discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status in hiring or dismissal, as well as referral or recruitment for a fee. It also prohibits retaliation, intimidation, and unfair documentary practices.

This case illustrates an employer’s liability for failing to comply with federal requirements for completing the Form I-9 process. The best way to help ensure uniform compliance is to invest in an electronic I-9 management system. An electronic system can help guide employers through the process and provide documentation, securely storing paperwork for future use and review.

Automate your employment eligibility verification today with the ensured compliance of I-9 Compliance.