DOJ Announces Settlement of Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently announced it has reached an agreement with a Texas-based company to settle immigration-related discrimination claims. Resolving allegations that the company failed to consider U.S. workers for certain positions and instead favored workers on temporary work visas, the settlement underscores the need for companies to exercise care in hiring.
Allegations of Favoring Non-U.S. Workers
According to the Department of Justice, Igloo Products Corporation, a Texas company that produces coolers, jugs, and hydration products, failed to consider U.S. workers for certain positions. Specifically, the company assumed U.S. workers lacked interest in temporary seasonal employment positions, which they reserved for seasonal workers with H-2B visas. The Department of Justice alleges the corporation was therefore in violation of the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”).
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company will pay $21,000.00 in civil penalties and make $40,000.00 in back pay available to eligible victims. Further, the company will adjust its policies and procedures to achieve compliance with the anti-discrimination policies of the INA. Finally, the company will be subject to monitoring by government officials to ensure compliance with the law.
Anti-Discrimination Under the Immigration & Nationality Act
The INA contains provisions that prohibit employers from discriminating against workers due to their citizenship or immigration status at any stage of the hiring process. Failure to comply with these laws could result in prosecution, leading to civil penalties and other sanctions.
The DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (“IER”) enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA. Under the Biden administration, enforcement of these laws has been steady. According to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, “[e]mployers cannot favor workers on temporary visas and ignore applications from qualified U.S. workers because of assumptions based on citizenship or immigration status.”
Furthermore, the Department of Labor requires employers seeking permission to hire H-2B workers to first hire all qualified U.S. workers who are available for the position. Certainly, to favor non-U.S. workers over U.S. workers in the hiring process would constitute clear violations of these laws.
DOJ Settlement of Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
This settlement is reminiscent of a DOJ settlement from September of this year, when another U.S. company favored non-U.S. workers over U.S. workers for full-time soccer instructor positions in the mid-Atlantic United States. In that case, the DOJ settled with the company for civil penalties, adjustment of hiring policies, implementation of additional training, and two years of government monitoring.
As the Biden administration continues to strictly enforce the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA against companies of all sizes, U.S. companies must exercise care in implementing their hiring practices.