By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

On December 10, 2018, OCAHO (Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer) awarded the United States $857,868 in civil penalties, along with other relief, in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) immigration-related employment discrimination lawsuit against Louisiana-based Technical Marine Maintenance Texas LLC (TMMTX), and Gulf Coast Workforce LLC (GCW), a related company.

Previously, on June 28, 2018, OCAHO held both companies violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by engaging in discriminatory documentary practices - limiting the types of documentation different groups of workers could provide to establish their work authorization based on the workers’ citizenship status. Additionally, OCAHO found the companies refused to comply with its procedures and orders during the litigation and sanctioned the companies.

The complaint against the companies alleged it asked U.S. citizens to produce “IDs” and Social Security cards while requesting List A documentation – either a permanent resident card or Employment Authorization document (EAD) from all non-U.S. citizens. Statistically, the companies obtained List A documents from 99% of non-U.S. citizens and List B and C documents from 675 out of 678 U.S. citizens (99%) that it hired. This conduct by the companies occurred both before and after the government filed a complaint against them for discriminatory practices. Thus, OCAHO found the companies’ pattern or practice of discrimination against both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens warranted high civil penalties.

OCAHO also found the companies knew or should have known of their legal obligation to utilize non-discriminatory practices, especially since TMMTX signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for use of E-Verify, which set forth the company’s obligation to utilize non-discriminatory documentary practices. Also, OCAHO considered the companies’ misconduct and ongoing failure to submit any evidence in the litigation.

Due to these factors, OCAHO ordered that high civil penalties be imposed against the companies. The possible penalties ranged from $110 to $1100 for violations on or before November 2, 2015 and $224 to $1848 (before 5 mitigating/aggravating factors) for penalties after November 2, 2015. Following the government’s recommendation, OCAHO imposed a 25% decrease from the maximum penalty based on the company’s inability to pay.

Therefore, OCAHO imposed the following penalties: $825 ($1100 x 75%) for violations occurring on or before November 2, 2015 and $1,386 ($1,848 x 75%) for all violations occurring after November 2, 2015. For discrimination against U.S. citizens, the companies were ordered to pay $624,756 (554 violations x $825 + 121 violations x $1386). For discriminatory practices against lawful permanent residents, OCAHO imposed a penalty of $223,443 (207 violations x $825 + 38 x $1386). Additionally, OCAHO imposed a penalty of $8,283 for eight protected asylees/refugees.

In addition to the $857,868 civil penalty for which TMMTX and GCW are jointly and severally liable, the order granted the DOJ’s request that the companies train their HR staff on the INA on non-discrimination, revise policies to eliminate any discrimination on the basis of citizenship status and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.
The penalty of $857,868 appears to be the largest penalty ever assessed against an employer for discriminatory documentary practices/citizenship status. This case is an example of how expensive discriminatory I-9 practices can be. If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at

This will be my final posting of the year as I don’t plan on posting Christmas week. Happy holidays and Happy New Year. See you in 2019.