By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), a Division of the Justice Department, has reached a settlement agreement with J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. The agreement resolves two investigations, one into whether J.C. Penney unlawfully rejected a lawful permanent resident’s valid work authorization documentation, and the other into whether J.C. Penney violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by unlawfully reverifying the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens.

The first investigation was prompted by a lawful permanent resident’s charge alleging J.C. Penney violated the INA’s anti-discrimination provision when J.C. Penney fired her in August 2016. The investigation found J.C. Penney had improperly rejected the worker’s unexpired Permanent Resident Card as proof of her work authorization. The second investigation found J.C. Penney had unlawfully reverified the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens solely based on their citizenship status, even though those non-citizens had presented the same type of valid work authorization documents as U.S. citizens when first hired.

The IER also found J.C. Penney unlawfully requested specific immigration documents from certain workers during the process of reverifying their work authorization because of their immigration status. Among other things, the INA prohibits employers from (1) rejecting valid work authorization documents, (2) limiting a worker’s choice of documentation to present for employment verification or reverification purposes, and (3) subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands, based on the employee’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

Under the terms of the settlement, J.C. Penney will pay a civil penalty of $14,430 to the United States; pay $11,177.60 in back pay to the worker who filed the charge; train its staff and corporate human resources personnel on their legal obligations to not discriminate on the basis of citizenship, immigration status, and national origin; require HR personnel to take an open book multiple choice test on the I-9 process; revise any existing employment policies so that they prohibit discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin; honor employees’ documentation that appears genuine and relates to the person; not request more of different documents than required by law; post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

It appears the IER is requiring more and more from employers entering into settlements. For example, HR personnel at J.C. Penney will be required to pass a test. This is a method to make sure that the law as relates to the I-9 process will be followed in the future. For answers to many other questions related to the IER and immigration compliance, I invite you to read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book that I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at