By: Bruce E Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ), though the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), reached a settlement agreement with James A. Scott & Son Inc. d/b/a Scott Insurance, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, resolving claims that Scott Insurance discriminated on the basis of citizenship status against a non-U.S. citizen. In doing so, Scott Insurance will pay almost $80,000 in back pay and penalties.

The investigation determined Scott Insurance discriminated against a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) by asking him for his Permanent Resident Card to prove his permission to work and rejecting the valid documentation he provided. The IER further determined from June 1, 2017, and continuing until at least August 1, 2020, Scott Insurance discriminated against non-U.S. citizens by failing to consider and hire them for positions based on their citizenship status.

The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) protects U.S. citizens, non-U.S. citizen nationals, refugees, asylees and recent lawful permanent residents from hiring discrimination based on their citizenship status. Employers are also prohibited 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. Thus, employers must allow workers to present whatever valid documentation the workers choose and cannot reject valid documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine.

Under the settlement, Scott Insurance will take the following actions:
  1. pay $9,500 in civil penalties to the United States;
  2. pay up to $70,000 in back pay to affected workers;
  3. train its employees who are responsible for verifying and reverifying workers’ permission to work in the United States, on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, by attending IER-provided webinar;
  4. create or revise their employment policies to comply with the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship/immigration status or national origin in the process of hiring and firing
  5. post IER’s poster, “If You Have the Right to Work,” in English and Spanish; and
  6. be subjected to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years.
This type of situation where an employer requires specific documents and refuses to accept allowable documents is far more common than you might suspect. I urge employers to be properly trained on your Form I-9 responsibilities to avoid an IER investigation.

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.