By: Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has reached a settlement agreement with Priority Construction Corporation of Baltimore, Maryland. The settlement resolves claims that Priority Construction violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by failing to consider U.S. workers, such as U.S. citizens, asylees/refugees, and recent lawful permanent residents, for employment opportunities due to the company’s preference for workers with H-2B visas.

The investigation determined that from at least January 1, 2019, to March 11, 2019, Priority Construction discriminated against applicants by failing to fully and fairly consider them for temporary laborer positions, due to the company’s preference for H-2B visa workers. Specifically, Priority Construction claimed at the time it could not find sufficient qualified U.S. workers, when in fact it had not taken the time to fairly assess the local applicants who had applied to determine if they were qualified. The Department of Labor requires employers seeking permission to hire H-2B workers to first hire all qualified and available U.S. workers who apply by the relevant deadline. IER also concluded the company attempted to discourage U.S. workers from applying by putting unnecessarily restrictive job requirements in a 2019 job announcement, such as three months of experience, when it would have accepted workers with one month of experience.

Under the settlement, Priority Construction will pay $40,600 in civil penalties to the United States; conduct enhanced U.S. worker recruitment and advertising for future positions; submit to the IER for approval, necessary changes to its policies and procedures to comply with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision; train its employees, contractors, on their obligation to comply on the requirements of this law through an IER webinar before applying for H-2B visas in the future; and be subject to three years of department monitoring requirements, including providing regular reports to the department.

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.