By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has signed a settlement agreement with Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain Inc. (ESGW), which operates in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The settlement resolves a claim that an ESGW office in Utah discriminated against an asylee by rejecting her documents that were valid proof of work authorization and demanding different documents to verify her employment eligibility, based on her immigration status. The investigation also determined ESGW required other non-U.S. citizens to present unnecessary immigration documents to prove their authorization to work in the United States, in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The investigation began after the asylee filed a discrimination complaint against ESGW based on her experience with an ESGW on-the-job training program. The investigation showed the asylee had presented a valid state ID and unrestricted Social Security card, which are sufficient to complete the Form I-9. However, ESGW rejected the documents and demanded unnecessary additional documents to prove work authorization. The IER also concluded another Utah ESGW office demanded an immigration document from all non-U.S. citizens as a regular practice, even if these workers had already presented other documents sufficient to complete the Form I-9.

The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary or rejecting documents that reasonably appear genuine to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin. Instead, in the INA, Congress determined that workers may choose which valid, legally acceptable documents to present to demonstrate their ability to work in the United States, regardless of citizenship status or national origin.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, ESGW will pay $6,186 in civil penalties to the United States; revise its policies and procedures that relate to nondiscrimination so that they prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship/immigration status and national origin in the hiring and firing process, and during any Form I-9 and/or E-Verify employment eligibility verification; train its employees about the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision by attending a webinar provided by the IER; and be subjected to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

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 http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.