The Justice Department in late May reached an agreement with a San Diego skilled nursing facility called Villa Rancho Bernardo Care Center following an investigation into possible discrimination against work-authorized non-citizens.
The DOJ's deal with VRB, announced on May 31, follows claims the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, according to a press release. The INA bars employers from asking new hires to provide specific documents during the Form I-9 process, based on citizenship status. This sort of request places excess burden on a certain class of people - in this case non-citizens eligible for employment in the U.S. - and constitutes discrimination under the INA. This sort of discriminatory request is exactly what VRB was charged with ahead of the DOJ investigation into its hiring practices.
VRB faces civil penalty after discrimination charge
The department determined VRB did, in fact, discriminate against permanent lawful residents authorized to work in the U.S. The DOJ found that the skilled nursing facility allowed U.S. citizens to provide whichever documents they chose for the Form I-9. However, VRB asked lawful permanent residents to show specific documents for the work authorization verification form. Not only did hiring professionals request specific documents from lawful permanent residents, the investigation found online job postings also asked for specific identification from green card holders.
"The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that individuals who are authorized to work in the United States do not face unlawful, discriminatory barriers," Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division and principal deputy assistant attorney general, said. "It is essential that employers review their employment eligibility verification practices to make sure they are in compliance with the law."
The settlement requires VRB to pay $24,000 in civil penalties to the federal government. The skilled nursing facility will also be required to initiate training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, conducted by the DOJ. VRB's hiring processes will also be subject to monitoring by the department in the future. These punishments are similar to those usually levied for similar charges. At times employers are also required to establish back pay funds for affected individuals.
VRB latest in series of INA violation agreements
The agreement between VRB and the DOJ accompanied a string of recent deals settling INA violation charges. Lately, Macy's, the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine and related residency programs, a seed company and a staffing firm all came to accords with the department over discrimination allegations.
Employers should be sure to maintain compliant hiring practices, or face fines similar to the one VRB is now required to pay. Part of this means allowing new hires to provide whichever List A, B or C documents they choose for the Form I-9. As long as the combination of identification meets Form I-9 standards, it should be accepted regardless of the new hire's citizenship status. This way, you'll avoid INA violations and the fines that come with them.