January 26, 2015

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Janitorial Company

The Justice Department recently announced that it reached a settlement agreement with U.S. Service Industries (USSI), a janitorial company headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and operating in Florida, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The agreement resolves allegations that USSI violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized individuals who are not U.S. citizens.

The Justice Department’s investigation found that USSI required workers who are not U.S. citizens to produce documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security as a condition of employment, but it did not make similar demands of U.S. citizens. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on workers during the employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status.

Under the settlement agreement, USSI will pay $132,000 in civil penalties to the United States; undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; establish a $50,000 back pay fund to compensate any workers who may have lost wages; revise its employment eligibility verification policies; and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices for two years.

“Employers cannot create unlawful discriminatory obstacles for immigrants,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “It is important that large employers review their employment eligibility verification practices at all of their offices to make sure they are in compliance with the law.”

To avoid costly discrimination claims like this one, consult with Cowles & Thompson to review your employment eligibility verification practices and train your staff on anti-discrimination rules.