DOJ and California Youth Organization Reach Settlement Over Form I-9 Violations

DOJ and California youth organization reach settlement over Form I-9 violations
January 16, 2023

The Justice Department has announced an agreement that settles a suit with a community organization that offered youth services in Oakland, California, over Form I-9 violations. According to the department’s findings, the organization violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Allegedly, it discriminated against a non-U.S. citizen employee based on their citizenship. In addition, it retaliated against another employee who attempted to stop the discrimination.

An assistant attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department emphasized that employers cannot discriminate against workers when verifying their eligibility to work. In addition, it stressed that discrimination included employees’ national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. Workers who question this discrimination should not find themselves subjected to adverse action. The Justice Department will defend workers who protect their or other workers’ rights with respect to this law.

The investigation by the Justice Department started due to two complaints it received. Subsequently, it discovered that the community organization had illegally discriminated against a non-U.S. citizen. In this case, the company refused valid documentation indicating her work authorization. Furthermore, the company required her to present other documentation due to her citizenship status. Shortly after this discrimination, the company terminated her employment because she could not produce the requested document.

The INA requires employers to accept any valid documentation the employee presents when determining their authorization to work in the United States. As such, the INA allows employees to assert their rights under the anti-discrimination provision without retaliation. However, the company retaliated and terminated another employee who recognized the discrimination and attempted to stop it.

In the settlement, the community organization will pay civil penalties of $10,360, the maximum allowed in this situation. However, the agreement does not include additional back pay. This exemption is because the former employees lost their wages before the Justice Department finished its investigation. The community organization must also adjust its policies to ensure compliance with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision. As a result, it must provide training to the members of its board and any employees responsible for verifying workers.

This case shows the importance of complying with the INA, including the regulations concerning the competition of the employment eligibility verification process (Form I-9). However, accurately completing Form I-9 proves difficult due to the numerous documents employees may present. As such, an electronic I-9 management system can help ensure you remain compliant. For example, the system will guide employers through the process and ensure hiring personnel knows which documents are suitable to prove work authorization.

Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.