A San Diego staffing company that does business as Eastridge Workforce Solutions settled with the Department of Justice following claims it discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens.
Eastridge, officially called TEG Staffing Inc., resolved allegations some new hires at its Mira Mesa, California, location faced discriminatory practices while completing certain work authorization verification requirements. The government alleged Eastridge hiring professionals requested specific documents from non-U.S. citizens while opening E-Verify cases and filling out the Form I-9. This is a breach of certain of Immigration and Nationality Act provisions that prohibit placing excess burdens on new hires who are not U.S. citizens.
The INA requires employers to ask all new hires for the same documents, regardless of citizenship status. The safest route is to request the proper combination of List A, B and C documents to satisfy work authorization verification requirements. For example, telling permanent lawful residents they have to show their green cards is a violation of the INA because it places an excess burden on these non-citizens.
"Telling permanent lawful residents they have to show their green cards is a violation of the INA."
Employment agencies see series of large fines
Staffing agencies comprise an industry rife with discrimination claims and Form I-9 noncompliance allegations. In the last few months both Powerstaffing Inc. and Golden Employment Group Inc. reached settlements with the DOJ - for $153,000 and $210,000, respectively. The former settled over claims of discrimination and the latter settled following Form I-9 violation charges.
"Staffing agencies and employers must comply with federal law to ensure they don't discriminate against lawful, authorized U.S. workers," Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said following the settlement with Eastridge. "Workers who get a job through a staffing agency should not confront unfair and unlawful barriers to joining the workforce and contributing to our economy."
DOJ levies $175,000 fine over discrimination claims
The DOJ investigation determined that from at least March 2014 until at least September 2015 the Mira Mesa Eastridge location engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. The department found that the employer requested specific documents from non-U.S. citizens for E-Verify cases and completion of the Form I-9. Despite this, the Mira Mesa location allowed citizens to provide any documents for the Form I-9 and E-Verify. This variance in work authorization verification policy was enough for the DOJ to charge with temporary staffing agency INA violations.
The terms of the settlement agreement call for Eastridge to pay $175,000 in civil penalties. In addition, the company will have to comply with department monitoring and undergo a review of its work authorization verification process. The staffing agency's settlement comes on the heels of a DOJ decision to raise certain hiring noncompliance penalties. The increased fines can quickly add up to the amounts staffing companies like Eastridge, Golden and Powerstaffing have been forced fork over to the government in recent months due to hiring violation claims.
To avoid the sort of penalties these employers were required to pay, it is important for companies to have compliant hiring procedures in place. This means ensuring that all new hires, regardless of citizenship status, are treated the same. In addition, it is important to have standardized Form I-9 retention policies in place. Regularly train employees on work authorization verification - whether via the Form I-9, which is required, or E-Verify, which is voluntary depending on location - to mitigate noncompliance risk.