Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Nebraska-Based Meat Packing Company
On August 24, 2015 , the Justice Department announced that it reached a settlement with Nebraska Beef Ltd., a meat packing company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The settlement resolves an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) into whether the company was engaging in employment discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In particular, OSC investigated whether the company was requiring non-U.S. citizen employees, because of their citizenship status, to present proof of their immigration status for the employment eligibility verification process.
The department’s investigation found that the company required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from making documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying an employee’s authorization to work.
“The department is committed to ensuring that individuals who are authorized to work in the United States can support their families and contribute to our country’s economic growth without facing unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to employment,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “We will vigorously enforce the law to remove such barriers where we find them, and ensure that affected individuals have a means of seeking relief.”
Under the settlement agreement, Nebraska Beef Ltd. will pay a $200,000 civil penalty to the United States and will establish an uncapped back pay fund to compensate individuals who lost wages because of the company’s practices. The settlement also requires the company to undergo compliance monitoring for two years, train its employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and to review and revise its office policies. For more information on the back pay fund or to make a claim for lost wages, please call 202-616-2603 or email OSC.NBClaims@usdoj.gov.
OSC is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.
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.