By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

Crop Production Services 2.jpg

Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of Department of Justice (DOJ) and Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado, reached a settlement agreement. The settlement resolves a lawsuit the IER filed against the company on September 28, 2017, alleging the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The settlement is part of the DOJ’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers.

The lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. According to the complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. For instance, the complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them. Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers. For more information on the lawsuit, see my prior blog entry at http://blogs.ilw.com/entry.php?10157...t-U-S-Citizens.

Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not enough qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.

The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500 to the United States; undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; revise employment policies to assure that Crop Production does not discriminate on the basis of citizenship, and clarify that H-2A visa holders may only be hired in the absence of any qualified and available U.S. workers; and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for a two-year period. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

For answers to many other questions 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.