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 an agreement with Serendipity Hearing Inc., doing business as Sonus Hearing Care, a hearing services provider headquartered in Huntington Beach, California, resolving a claim that it engaged in discriminatory documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification process.

The investigation found that Sonus required an employee, who was a lawful Permanent Resident, to show a new employment eligibility document when her Permanent Resident Card expired. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, an employer is prohibited from this practice because lawful permanent residents are still authorized to work in the United States, even after their Permanent Resident Cards expire. When the employee could not provide a new Permanent Resident Card, Sonus terminated her.

As part of the OSC settlement agreement, Sonus will:

- Pay $16,727 in back pay to the employee;
- Pay $400 in civil penalties to the United States;
- Revise its employment eligibility re-verification policies;
- Be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices; and
- Undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.

The civil penalty assessed against Sonus was unusually low, presumably because this was a one-time occurrence. However, Sonus’s back pay was not low due to the alleged discriminating practice.

The Takeaway

Although it may seem logical to re-verify an employee’s expired document, it is unlawful for an employer to re-verify an expired Permanent Resident Card (also known as a “green card”). The reason for this is that Permanent Resident employees do not lose their Permanent Resident status or their work authorization when their green cards expire. Though they should renew their green cards, they remain Permanent Residents even after their cards expire. For a person to lose their Permanent Resident status, generally, it must be revoked by an Immigration Judge in Immigration Court.

For employees who are not Permanent Residents, an employer must lawfully re-verify an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) after it expires since an employee’s authorization to work does end when their EAD expires.