By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) under the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has reached a settlement agreement with Clifford Chance US LLP, an international law firm with its U.S. headquarters located in New York. This agreement resolves the investigation into whether the law firm engaged in hiring discrimination by refusing to consider work-authorized non-U.S. citizens and dual citizens to staff a client project, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

It was determined there was reasonable cause to believe that from March 30, 2017, until at least July 7, 2017, Clifford Chance unlawfully restricted its staffing for 36 positions on a document review project based on citizenship status. The investigation determined Clifford Chance’s unlawful practice of excluding otherwise qualified non-U.S. citizens and dual U.S. citizens from the document reviewer positions was based on the law firm’s misunderstanding of the requirements of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The investigation found the law firm improperly terminated or removed three individuals from their positions based on their citizenship status.

The ITAR regulates specific exports of defense articles and services, and – absent State Department authorization – limits access to certain sensitive information to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees. The ITAR thus does not authorize or require employers to hire only U.S. citizens. Employers that limit their hiring to U.S. citizens without a proper legal basis may violate the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, which prohibits hiring discrimination based on citizenship and national origin.

Under the settlement, Clifford Chance will offer to pay lost wages to three individuals who were removed from the project; pay a $132,000 civil penalty to the United States; have relevant staff undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; inform clients who request citizenship status restrictions for staff of the INA’s requirements of non-discrimination; revise its policies to prohibit unlawful discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin; and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.