The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it has settled with a Maryland-based cleaning and janitorial services provider. This agreement resolves the department’s allegations that the company discriminated against non-citizen workers in its employment eligibility verification process. In addition, the settlement will require the company to change its policies regarding completing Form I-9 and paying a civil penalty, among other terms.
The DOJ’s investigation found that the company routinely demanded specific documentation from non-US citizens to prove their permission to work in the US upon hire. For example, according to the investigations, the employer requested that lawful permanent residents present their permanent resident cards. Furthermore, asylees and refugees had to give their employment authorization documents to prove their eligibility to work in the US. In contrast, the employer allegedly allowed US citizens to present documentation of their choosing from the list of acceptable documents.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division stated, “Employers cannot treat employees differently because of citizenship, immigration status, or national origin when verifying their permission to work. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the law to ensure that workers do not face discrimination when providing their permission to work in the United States.”
Under federal law, workers may choose which valid and legally acceptable documentation they will present to satisfy Form I-9’s identity and employment eligibility requirements, no matter their national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.
Under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), employers cannot request specific documentation due to a newly hired worker’s national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. However, in many cases, non-US citizens may provide the same varieties of documentation as US citizens, including driver’s licenses.
As a result, employers should always accept any reasonable genuine appearing documentation that would satisfy Form I-9’s requirements. The INA’s requirements are enforced by the Employee Rights Section of the DOJ, as was the case in this instance.
Under the settlement between the employer and the DOJ, the former will pay a civil penalty of $300,000. In addition, it will provide its staff with training regarding the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The employer will also update its policies and undergo additional monitoring from the DOJ for the following three years.
The best way to avoid penalties and issues, such as those from failing to comply with Form I-9 requirements, is to invest in an electronic I-9 management tool. This tool can guide hiring personnel to complete Form I-9 correctly while ensuring safe and secure storage of forms and documentation.
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