September 18, 2015

City of Eugene, Oregon Settles Immigration Discrimination Claim

The U.S. Justice Department recently reached a settlement agreement with the city of Eugene, Oregon, to resolve allegations that the city violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The city of Eugene is the second largest city in the state of Oregon.

The Justice Department’s investigation found that the city of Eugene improperly restricted law enforcement positions to U.S. citizens at the time of hire, even though no law, regulation, executive order or government contract authorized such a restriction. The investigation revealed that the city of Eugene asked police officer applicants about their citizenship status with the intent to exclude any applicant who was not a U.S. citizen at the time of hire. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from limiting jobs to U.S. citizens except where the employer is required to do so by law, regulation, executive order, or government contract.

Under the settlement agreement, the city of Eugene must pay a civil penalty, train its employees about the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department for a period of three years.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that individuals who are authorized to work in the United States do not face unlawful discriminatory barriers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division commends the city of Eugene for cooperating with the Justice Department and taking swift remedial action to address the situation.”

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee based on an individual’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

C&T commentary: To avoid immigration discrimination claims like this one, employers should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before taking any action based upon immigration status. For questions about your organization’s compliance with anti-discrimination rules, you are invited to contact us.