By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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The Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) has reached a settlement agreement with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) resolving claims that MDCPS discriminated against employees because of their citizenship status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The investigation found that MDCPS required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documents to prove their employment eligibility. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from making specific documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying an employee’s authorization to work.

Under the settlement agreement, MDCPS will pay a $90,000 civil penalty to the United States and will establish a $125,000 back pay fund to compensate individuals who lost wages because of the MDCPS’s practices. In order to locate back pay claimants, MDCPS must notify, through e-mail and mail, all individuals who were offered employment or who received a “conditional offer” but were not hired. The settlement also requires MDCPS to revise its employment practices in regards to non-discrimination within 90 days and submit them to OSC for approval, undergo compliance monitoring for three years, and have OSC train its human resources employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.

In a very unique remedy, OSC will provide one-hour training sessions regarding workers’ rights to students at up to 10 high schools in MDCPS as well as five adult English for Speakers of Other Languages.

As a graduate of MDCPS (from many years ago), it is disappointing to see the school district’s discrimination. Additionally, this settlement agreement shows the creativity that OSC is using in crafting settlements. I strongly advise employers to get proper training from an immigration compliance attorney as too many employers are demanding specific documents from non-citizens but not from U.S. citizens. Without this training, employers may be facing lots of liability in the same manner as MDCPS.