By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

OCAHO has issued another decision in 2019, Onoja v. Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, 13 OCAHO no. 1317 (Mar. 15, 2019), reflecting that it may be back issuing regular decisions after essentially taking 2018 off.

In Onoja, a U.S. citizen sought employment as a Deputy Sheriff with Arlington County. As part of the hiring process, Onoja submitted a questionnaire, which requested his Social Security number, military history, and certain documents, including Social Security card, birth certificate, and driver’s license.

The Sheriff’s Office reviewed the materials submitted and discovered the Social Security number submitted did not match the Social Security card provided and his name provided was different than on his birth certificate. The Sheriff’s Office inquired about these discrepancies and Onoja said he had changed his name. Onoja provided an affidavit of name correction pursuant to “Indigenous Nationality & Aboriginal American Citizenship.” The Sheriff’s Office determined this document was not a valid name change record.

Thus, Onoja was rejected for employment for several reasons, including the information on the questionnaire related to his name and Social Security card did not match the documents provided, and the name change document was not valid.

Onoja filed a complaint with the Immigration and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Civil Rights Division within the Department of Justice. IER thereafter gave Onoja the right to file a complaint before OCAHO, which Onoja did alleging document abuse based on his citizenship status. The Sheriff’s Office filed a Motion for Summary Decision.

Document abuse occurs only when an employer requests more or different documents than necessary or rejects valid documents and does so to discriminate on the basis of citizenship or national origin.

Onoja alleges the Sheriff’s Office rejected his valid “tribal-state” name change document. The Sheriff’s Office argued, and OCAHO found, the document was not valid, rather it was fraudulent and insufficient to establish a name change. OCAHO found the document was not a court order; rather, it was formatted like a court filing through replete with spelling errors and was captioned in a non-existent county in the State of Maryland. Also, it was alleged to be an affidavit, not a court order. Furthermore, the document was not a tribal document in that the document did not reference any federally recognized tribe.

For all of these reasons, Onoja failed to establish a prima facie case and, assuming arguendo, he said so, the Sheriff’s Office presented a valid non-discriminatory reason for rejecting the document and his employment – the document presented was not valid.
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