DOJ Files Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against Agricultural Employer
On September 11, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), a subset of the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, by two U.S. citizens against Jerry Estopy, d/b/a Estopy Farms, a sorghum and soy farm based in McAllen, Texas.
The government’s motion alleges that the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when it refused to hire one of the U.S. citizen employee plaintiffs due to his citizenship status. Specifically, the company is alleged to have hired seasonal foreign workers as cotton picker operators instead of one of the U.S. citizen plaintiffs, who had over twelve years of experience operating cotton combines and tractors at the time of his application in June 2010.
According to its motion, the DOJ found reasonable cause to believe that the company preferred to hire foreign workers under the H-2A seasonal worker program over U.S. citizen applicants. Under the H-2A visa program, foreign nationals may enter the U.S. to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Participating employers must certify to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that they have actively tried to recruit U.S. workers for the position and that the temporary workers’ employment will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers.