North American Shipbuilding LLC recently settled with the Department of Justice following allegations that the company retaliated against an individual following a discrimination complaint.
The DOJ announced this month that it had reached a settlement with the Louisiana-based shipbuilding company, which had allegedly retaliated against an employee for filing a discrimination complaint with the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. North American Shipbuilding did not allow the individual to enter the company's business facilities, among other things, according to the DOJ. Such action is a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which bars employers from "intimidating, threatening, coercing or retaliating" against employees who file charges with the office.
"North American Shipbuilding agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,750."
Discrimination settlements common in October
Discrimination complaints have cropped up frequently in October as various organizations have repeatedly treated work-authorized non-citizens differently from similarly situated citizens. These cases typically come about as the result of an employer requesting a specific document from a non-citizen during background verification or re-verification. While the DOJ did not specify what sort of discrimination charge the employee had files in the first place, this is the sort that has been common throughout October.
"Retaliation against employees for contacting government agencies entrusted to investigate possible violations of the law will not be tolerated," Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division, said regarding the agreement with North American Shipbuilding. "Employees should not be afraid to speak up about their treatment in the workplace."
North American Shipbuilding to pay $1,750 civil penalty
In this case, North American Shipbuilding agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,750, as well as set up a $15,000 back pay fund for any wages that the individual may have missed out on due to the company's actions. The shipbuilder also agreed to train its staff on the anti-discrimination portion of the INA and improve its employment policies.
Numerous companies have recently paid fines for citizenship discrimination Recently a Nebraska meat-packing plant, a delivery logistics company based in several states, three Las Vegas-based cab companies operating under an umbrella firm and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system have all reached settlements with the DOJ following discrimination allegations. Fines against these companies have ranged from as low as $1,000 for Postal Express Inc. to up to $445,000 for the umbrella taxicab company, Yellow Checker Star Transportation Company. All of the entities that have reached settlement agreements with the DOJ are also required to retrain employees on compliant hiring processes and the anti-discrimination portion of the INA.
If employers hope to avoid fines that often climb well above $100,000 they should ensure that their staffs are well-educated on the INA and aware of best practices when it comes to hiring work-authorized non-citizens and completing the Form I-9. Companies are often hit with large civil penalties following these allegations, and are at times also asked to create sizable back pay funds and make potentially costly alterations to their operations.
To avoid these situations it is important to maintain a compliant hiring process all the way through and to treat all new hires, whether citizens or not, the same.