By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), a part of the Justice Department, reached a settlement agreement with Barrios Street Realty Inc., a company in Lockport, Louisiana. The agreement resolves claims that the company and its agent, Jorge Arturo Guerrero Rodriguez, engaged in a pattern or practice of citizenship discrimination against U.S. workers by preferring to hire foreign workers under the H-2B visa program.

The OSC’s investigation found in July 2014, Barrios Street Realty and Guerrero Rodriguez failed to consider or improperly rejected 73 U.S. workers who applied for positions as sheet metal roofers or laborers, and then solicited foreign workers to fill these positions. The OSC determined the company’s applications for foreign workers falsely claimed that its earlier efforts to fill the sheet metal and laborer positions failed to identify qualified U.S. workers. Refusing to consider or hire qualified U.S. workers because of their citizenship violates H-2B regulations and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision.

Under the settlement, Barrios Street Realty must create a back pay fund of $115,000 to compensate U.S. workers, pay $30,000 in civil penalties and be subject to monitoring for a three-year period. In addition, Barrios Street Realty acknowledged that its misuse of the H-2B visa program constituted valid grounds for debarment from the program and agreed to a voluntary debarment prohibiting it from seeking H-2B visa workers or any other classification of non-immigrant visa workers from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration for a period of three years.

The settlement agreement also requires Barrios Street Realty to provide the OSC, upon its request, a copy of every job application/resume submitted to Barrios Street Realty and a record of action on that job application. Furthermore, Barrios Street Realty’s HR employees must attend training sessions conducted by OSC on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, the company must revise its immigration compliance practices in regards to non-discrimination, and submit any proposed changes to the OSC for their approval.

This represents the first time the OSC has obtained a voluntary debarment as a remedy for violating the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.