By: Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice has reached a settlement agreement with Rehrig Pacific Company, headquartered in California. The settlement resolves allegations that Rehrig Pacific discriminated against a non-U.S. citizen when, because of his citizenship status, it did not give him the opportunity to produce his choice of valid documentation proving his permission to work.

The investigation began after a non-U.S. citizen filed a discrimination complaint. The investigation determined that when the company was checking his continued permission to work, it instructed him to produce a new document from the Department of Homeland Security. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from limiting or specifying the types of documentation a worker is allowed to show to prove permission to work, because of a worker’s citizenship, immigration status or national origin. As a result, even when an employer has a legal requirement to check a worker’s continued permission to work, the employer should allow the worker to present whatever valid documentation the worker chooses.

Under the settlement, Rehrig Pacific will pay civil penalties of $1542 to the United States; revise its policies 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; train its employees about the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision by attending a webinar provided by the IER or approved by IER; post IER’s poster, “If You Have The Right to Work”, in English and Spanish; and be subjected to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.

Additionally, Rehrig Pacific’s personnel involved in I-9/E-Verify compliance must take a training assessment tool that IER will provide. Afterwards, Rehrig Pacific shall review and score each individual's responses to the questions. If any individual answers a question incorrectly, Rehrig Pacific shall, within five days, require the individual who answered incorrectly to read one or more of the applicable government resources and answer the question(s) again until the individual answers the question(s) correctly.

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.