By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has reached a settlement with LNK International Inc. (LNK), a New York-based manufacturer of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. The settlement resolves the department’s claims that LNK violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when it discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens.

An investigation determined LNK routinely requested unnecessary and specific documents from lawful permanent residents that the company hired for work in certain departments to prove they were allowed to work in the United States. The investigation determined LNK requested that lawful permanent residents show their Permanent Resident Cards (“green cards”) to prove their work authorization but allowed U.S. citizens to choose from among various acceptable document types. LNK also had an unlawful policy of requiring refugees and asylees, based on their immigration status, to show updated proof of their work authorization, even when they already had provided documents that demonstrated ongoing, permanent work authorization.

Federal law allows all work-authorized individuals, regardless of citizenship status, to choose which valid, legally acceptable documentation to present to demonstrate their identity and authorization to work in the United States. Many non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees, among others, have work authorization that does not expire, and are eligible for several of the same types of documents as U.S. citizens, such as driver’s licenses and unrestricted Social Security cards, to prove their work authorization. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, LNK will pay the United States a civil penalty of $220,000; train its employees about the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision by attending a webinar provided by the IER; 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; and be subjected to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three 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.