Department of Justice Settlements a Good Reminder of Employer Obligations under Employment Verification Laws

Employers work hard to make sure they comply with federal immigration law, but they must remember not to take their efforts too far. Last week, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reminded employers everywhere of their obligations to treat both citizen and non-citizen employees alike when it comes to verifying the employment eligibility of individuals, to the tune of $155,500 in civil penalties.

The civil penalties stemmed from two separate actions where the DOJ alleged that the employers in question engaged in the practice of either requiring specific documentation from non-citizens for I-9 purposes or selectively running known or suspected non-citizens through E-Verify. One of the employers agreed to pay $115,000 in civil penalties, while the other employer agreed to pay $40,500.  Along with the civil penalties, both employers face various monitoring programs by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. Both offenders must also undergo various training programs for the staff involved with employment decisions. In addition, the employers must pay backpay to employees who suffered lost wages due to the alleged discriminatory practices.

Employers across the country should remember that while they must verify the ability of their potential hires to work, they cannot ask for specific documents, or have separate requirements for those individuals based on their national origin or citizenship status. Federal law prohibits: 1) citizenship status discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, 2) national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, 3) document abuse (unfair documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification, Form I-9, process), and 4) retaliation or intimidation.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.