Three Nevada taxicab companies - all of which operate collectively under an umbrella organization called Yellow Checker Star Transportation Company - recently settled with the Department of Justice following allegations that they discriminated against immigrants during the hiring process.
The charges of citizenship discrimination came after claims that YCS violated the Immigration and Nationality Act. Discrimination charges, such as those against YCS, come up often and it seems that numerous organizations are unaware of the fact that work-authorized immigrants have the same rights as citizens during background verification processes. In the case of the three Las Vegas taxicab companies, - Nevada Yellow Cab Corporation, Nevada Checker Cab Corporation, and Nevada Star Cab Corporation - non-citizens authorized to work in the U.S. were asked to provide specific documents for their Form I-9s, while citizens were not asked to do the same thing. This sort of request places unnecessary burdens on work-authorized immigrants in violation of the INA.
"Furnish new hires with a list of acceptable List A, B and C items."
Requesting specific documents constitutes discrimination
Rather than ask non-citizens for specific documents, companies are required to furnish new hires with a list of acceptable List A, B and C items, and allow the individuals to provide whichever they choose, as long as they are genuine. Asking for a specific document, such as a Permanent Resident Card, places additional burdens on work-authorized immigrants that are not applied to similarly situated citizens, thus violating the INA.
"Employers are not permitted to impede the employment opportunities of work-authorized immigrants by imposing additional and unnecessary documentary requirements upon them," said Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division commends Yellow Checker Star Transportation Company for working with the division to educate members of the Las Vegas community about their rights under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act."
The settlement agreement calls for YCS to pay $445,000 in civil penalties to the federal government. Additional punishments were levied against the umbrella company as well. YCS will be required to place print advertisements in a monthly trade magazine for six months - they are not required to be consecutive - explaining to employees the anti-discrimination portion of the INA. The settlement also mandates that the taxicab company's staff to undergo training on the relevant INA section. YCS's hiring will be monitored for three years as well.
YCS considers work-authorized immigrants integral to the company's success.
Discrimination the result of a 'low-level clerical error'
YCS's board of directors emailed Law360 an explanation, noting that the discriminatory actions were, in fact, the result of low-level clerical errors, rather than a purposeful attempt to place additional burden on work-authorized immigrants. The board went on to explain it did not authorize or approve of the errors, and corrected them once the issues became known.
"Despite the errors, Yellow Checker Star did not preclude any prospective employee from obtaining employment for discriminatory reasons," the board noted in the email. "We take tremendous pride in serving as an equal-opportunity employer with a talented and dedicated multicultural workforce."
Over 30 percent of the company's 2,000 employees are work-authorized immigrants, according to YCS, and the organization actively recruits non-citizens.
The settlement is one of several in October concerning INA violations. Employers should be vigilant in ensuring their staffs are aware of the anti-discrimination portion of the INA, and are making sure not to place additional burdens on work-authorized immigrants in any way. Such action can lead to large fines and additional mandates from the DOJ. It is important to treat every new hire, citizen or not, similarly to avoid discrimination charges.