By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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The Justice Department, through the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has reached a settlement agreement with Ark Rustic Inn LLC d/b/a Rustic Inn Crabhouse (Rustic Inn), a restaurant located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The agreement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether Rustic Inn discriminated against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their employment authorization.

The investigation revealed Rustic Inn routinely requested that work-authorized non-U.S. citizens present specific documents, such as Permanent Resident Cards or Employment Authorization Documents, to verify their citizenship status information; however, it did not subject U.S. citizens to the same verification. The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

Under the settlement, Rustic Inn will pay a civil penalty of $4000 to the United States; review and revise any existing employment policies that relate to nondiscrimination on the basis of citizenship or immigration status and national origin so that it prohibits such discrimination in regard to the I-9 verification process; train its staff by viewing a free IER Employer/HR representative webinar; post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; shall ensure that all individuals, who are responsible for formulating and carrying out its hiring/firing, and employment eligibility verification policies, have available the most current version of the Form 1-9, USCIS Employment Eligibility Verification Handbook for Employers (M-274), and be subject to departmental monitoring for three years.

The allegation of having different standards for U.S. citizens than non-U.S. citizens is a fairly common error by employers. However, with training by an immigration attorney, well-versed in employer compliance, these errors can easily be avoided. For more information on this issue and many others related to employer immigration compliance, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.