ALJ Declines to Award Damages, Civil Penalties in Document Abuse Case
On December 3, 2020, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer entered a precedential decision in Martine Mbitaze v. City of Greenbelt, 13 OCAHO 1345b, a case arising out of the employment discrimination provision of 8 U.S.C. 1324b. In October 2019, Mbitaze had filed a complaint against the City of Greenbelt alleging that the city had refused to hire her based on her national origin and citizenship status and had engaged in document abuse in violation of 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1324b.
Civil Penalties in Document Abuse Case
On October 1, 2020, the Court granted summary judgment to the City of Greenbelt on the discrimination claims, but found the City engaged in document abuse in that it “asked for, and insisted upon, more documents than required” for Mbitaze, who “is a derivative citizen.”
The law provides that upon a finding that a person or entity has engaged in unfair immigration-related employment practice, the judge must issue an order requiring the person or entity to cease and desist from such practices. Other remedies, however, are discretionary.
Mbitaze asserted that the City should be required to educate its workforce about immigration laws; that it should pay a civil monetary penalty; that a cease-and-desist order should be issued; and that she should be paid damages for negligent infliction of emotional address, as she had experienced a loss of enjoyment in life due to the City’s actions and the litigation she was compelled to bring.
ALJ Declines to Award Damages
The Court found that “[R]equests for compensation for emotional distress, humiliation, and punitive damages exceed  the forum’s jurisdiction …” (cites omitted).
Further, “[w]hile the statute includes civil monetary penalties, those penalties have been imposed only when the Unites States has brought the case,” and even then, the “ALJ is to consider the totality of the circumstances.” In this case, while the City asked for more documents than required, making it difficult for Mbitaze to satisfy the request, she was not disqualified on that basis.
Having determined that she lacked authority to award damages for negligent infliction for emotional distress and found that civil penalties were not necessary in this case, the ALJ declined to impose those additional remedies, and concluded the following:
Respondent is ordered to CEASE AND DESIST its unfair immigration related employment practices. Respondent is also ordered to educate all personnel involved in hiring about the requirements of the document abuse provisions of Sec. 132b(a)(6).