The Department of Justice Settles with Frozen Food Company Over Form I-9 Violations

The Department of Justice has recently announced that it has settled with a Minnesota-based frozen food distributor and manufacturer. This settlement now resolves claims that the company has regularly discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in its hiring process through demanding extra documents as part of its Form I-9 completion.

Federal law forbids employers from demanding any specific or extra documents from workers to prove their permission to work in the United States. This includes forbidding employers from demanding any particular documents based upon the national origin, citizenship, or immigration status of a worker. Violations of this rule will be considered unlawful discrimination under the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision, which will be investigated by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and when appropriate, the division will take further action, such as in this case.

Employees must be permitted to submit whatever documents they choose that are valid and acceptable proof of their permission to work regardless of their status. In this case, the department initiated an investigation to find whether the employer was in violation of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision due to allegations that the company routinely asked non-U.S. citizens to present specific documentation from the Department of Homeland Security to prove that they were permitted to work in the U.S. Though this would in of itself be a violation, the company also made no such request from U.S. citizens.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), which is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, reached a settlement of $40,000 in civil penalties for the violation. The settlement also includes provisions requiring the employer to change their policies in order to comply with the INA’s anti-discrimination policies. It also will require the employer to provide its personnel that are in charge of verifying workers’ permission to work in the United States with training on complying with the INA’s requirements.

Employer Takeaways

As this case shows, compliance with Form I-9’s requirements can be complex, and violations of its provisions can result in years of unnecessary litigation and excessive civil penalties. The best way to avoid mistakes and ensure compliance with federal law is to use an electronic I-9 management tool. This can help guide personnel through every step of the process, avoiding requests for unnecessary documentation and ensuring that everything is securely stored for review at any time.

Our innovative I-9 Compliance tool will save you time and effort by quickly verifying your employment eligibility verification automatically.