Crookham Company, a seed company in Caldwell, Idaho, reached an agreement with the Department of Justice over allegations it discriminated against lawful permanent residents during the hiring process.
The family-owned business specializes in hybrid sweet corn, onions and popcorn. It also offers novelty corn. The company and it's CEO, George Crookham, reached a deal with the DOJ over claims the seed wholesaler violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to a press release. The department investigated Crookham Company's Form I-9 process and determined that it discriminated against non-citizens lawfully authorized to work in the U.S. The DOJ claimed the business asked permanent resident card holders to provide the documents, or their employment authorization cards, as proof of eligibility for hiring in the country.
INA prohibits document requests
The INA bars employers from asking new hires for specific documents during the hiring process, regardless of citizenship status. Instead, they should provide catalogs of List A, B and C documents for their recent employees and allow them to choose which documents they offer for the Form I-9. Requesting a specific card or other proof of citizenship status is a breach of the INA and can result in a penalty. Crookham Company agreed to pay $200,000 in civil penalties to the federal government. Fines can grow larger depending on the extent of discrimination and possible past allegations of INA violations.
Crookham Company recognized for DOJ cooperation
Vanity Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, praised the company for working with the government during the investigation. She called the seed wholesaler's participation with the DOJ a "model" for "partnerships" between the department and employer in regard to doing "the right thing" and settling INA violations. Before the settlement, Crookham Company integrated department-provided training on the INA's anti-discrimination provision. It implemented further initiatives to mitigate the chance of future Form I-9 violations as well.
"Once we realized that we had some issues with our documents we immediately started collaborating with the DOJ," Crookham told the Idaho Press-Tribune, "because we wanted to do what's right and we wanted to take those corrective actions."
He denied that the company actively engaged in illegal hiring practices, the Capital Press reported. However, once the business received contact from the DOJ on the matter, it began working to correct any potential issues.
"We were making some mistakes that we didn't realize were improper. We didn't want to discriminate against anybody," he told the media outlet. "We had an issue with our documents (and) we did everything we could to fix (the problem)."
While Crookham Company voluntarily implemented measures to prevent future Form I-9 infractions, oftentimes DOJ settlement agreements also include provisions requiring ongoing monitoring of hiring practices and INA training. Sometimes back pay funds are also required. For employers to avoid large fines such as the one levied against Crookham Company each step of the hiring process, including Form I-9 completion and E-Verify cases, should be compliant.