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Justice Department Sues Companies Over Discriminatory I-9 Practices

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently settled immigration-related discrimination claims in California and Georgia.

In California, DOJ reached an agreement with Serendipity Hearing Inc., doing business as Sonus Hearing Care (Sonus), a hearing services provider headquartered in the Los Angeles, California, metropolitan area. The agreement resolves a claim, filed with DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), that the company engaged in discriminatory documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification process.

OSC’s investigation found that Sonus required the complainant, a lawful permanent resident (LPR) it had hired, to produce a new employment eligibility document when her permanent resident card expired, even though the Form I-9 and E-Verify rules prohibit this practice because LPRs have permanent work authorization in the United States after their permanent resident cards expire. When the complainant failed to present her new permanent resident card, Sonus terminated her. OSC noted that the Immigration and Nationality Act’s antidiscrimination provision prohibits employers from making additional and unauthorized documentary demands based on citizenship status or national origin when verifying or re-verifying an employee’s employment eligibility.

Under the settlement agreement, Sonus will pay $16,727 in back pay to the complainant and $400 in civil penalties to the United States, undergo training on the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, revise its employment eligibility re-verification policies, and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices.

Georgia case. DOJ reached an agreement with Constructor Services Inc. (CSI), a construction company headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area. The agreement resolves a claim that the company engaged in discriminatory documentary practices during the employment eligibility verification process.

DOJ’s investigation found that CSI required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly situated U.S. citizens, to produce specific documentary proof of their immigration status for the purpose of verifying their employment eligibility. “Employers must make sure that they are not erecting unlawful discriminatory barriers in their employment eligibility verification policies and practices,” said Molly Moran, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

Under the settlement agreement, CSI will pay $18,000 in civil penalties to the United States, undergo training on the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, revise its employment eligibility reverification policies, and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices for 24 months.

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