By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), within the Justice Department, has reached a settlement with United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company of the former Continental Airlines, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The settlement comes after an investigation into a complaint that was called-in to the OSC Worker Hotline.

OSC’s investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Continental Airlines engaged in citizenship status discrimination during the employment eligibility verification process in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). OSC alleged that Continental Airlines requested lawful permanent resident employees, but not U.S. citizen employees, to complete additional I-9 Forms and provide additional proof of employment eligibility after hire, even though the law prohibits this practice.

The INA’s anti-discrimination provision specifically prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin.

As part of the settlement agreement, United Continental Holdings Inc. will pay $215,000 to the United States Treasury and create a $55,000 back pay fund to compensate any individuals who suffered economic damages, including suspension, termination, or other periods of lost work, or loss of seniority as a result of Continental Airlines’ practices. Further, the company will be subject to departmental monitoring of its employment eligibility re-verification practices for a period of two (2) years and will be required to do the following:

1) Advise OSC of any changes in the company’s employment policies as they relate to nondiscrimination on the basis of citizenship status and national origin at least thirty (30) days prior to the effective date of such revised policies;

2) Ensure that all individuals who are responsible for formulating, carrying out, and/or conducting training on the company’s employment eligibility verification policies, including all managers and employees who have any role making or carrying out employment eligibility verification policies and practices, such as completing the Form I-9 and/or using the E-Verify system ("Verifying Personnel"), are in possession of the most current version of the Form I-9, USCIS Employment Eligibility Verification Handbook for Employers and the most current USCIS E-Verify Manual; and

3) Send all new Verifying Personnel to attend an Office of Special Counsel Employer/HR webinar within sixty (60) days of hire or promotion.

This settlement demonstrates that employers, large and small, can benefit from incorporating INA anti-discrimination provisions into a company I-9 Compliance policy, and from conducting immigration compliance training.

A copy of the settlement agreement can be viewed here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Buchanan is an attorney with the law firm of Siskind Susser P.C. - - a full service U.S. immigration law firm representing employers and individuals nationwide for over 20 years. You can also follow this author on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BuchananVisaLaw .