Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim against Meat Packing Company

A meat packing company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska required non-U.S. citizen applicants, or those it perceived to be immigrants, to provide specific work authorization documents in the hiring process.  By contrast, it applied a different, more relaxed, standard to U.S. citizen applicants’ presentation of documents in that same hiring process.  The Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment  Practices (“OSC”) opened an investigation into whether this practice of requiring more or specific documents from non-citizens violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the federal immigration law.  Following this investigation, the OSC recently reached a settlement with meat packing company, Nebraska Beef Ltd.

The OSC found that the company discriminated against immigrant job applicants based on their citizenship status.  Specifically, the company required immigrant job applicants to prove their employment eligibility by presenting specific documents demonstrating their citizenship/immigration status, while applicants who were U.S. citizens were allowed to present their choice of documents from among an approved list on the I-9 form.  According to the OSC, this practice violated the INA’s prohibition against employers basing documentary demands on citizenship/immigration status or national origin when verifying employees’ eligibility to work.

Under the settlement agreement, Nebraska Beef Ltd. will pay a $200,000 civil penalty to the United States and will establish a back pay fund to compensate individuals who lost wages because of the company’s discriminatory practices.  The company also agreed to be monitored by the Justice Department for two years, train its employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions, and to review and revise its office hiring policies. 

Organizers, workers and Union staff should be mindful that employers are not engaging in such discriminatory practices when verifying employment eligibility either at the time of hire or during reverification.  Under the federal immigration law, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate in hiring, firing, recruitment, or referral for a fee based on an individual’s citizenship status, immigration status or national origin.  It is also unlawful for employers to base requests for documents based on citizenship or immigration status or national origin, request more documents than are necessary, and reject valid documents that appear reasonably legitimate on their face when verifying an employee’s authorization to work.

The OSC is responsible for enforcing the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions and investigating and prosecuting potential violations.  For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, please call OSC’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired), visit OSC’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc, email osccrt@usdoj.gov, or sign up for a free webinar at www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/webinars.php; or contact labor counsel. 
By Alejandro Delgado | February 26, 2016

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