The city of Eugene, Ore., recently reached an agreement with the Justice Department following allegations that the city violated the anti-discrimination clause of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
A DOJ investigation of the second-largest city in the state of Oregon found that Eugene restricted law enforcement positions to U.S. citizens at the time of hire. However, "no law, regulation, executive order or government contract," allowed for such a hiring policy, according to a press release. Citizenship status generally should have no bearing on whether an individual gets hired, as long as he or she is eligible to work in the U.S.
"Applicants were allegedly asked about their citizenship status."
Eugene violated INA by requiring law enforcement applicants to be US citizens
The anti-discrimination portion of the INA prohibits discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status. This includes discrimination in the acts of "hiring, or recruitment or referral for a fee." By only hiring U.S. citizens to work for the city's law enforcement department, Eugene was violating the INA by discriminating against work-eligible non-citizens.
The investigation revealed that police officer applicants were allegedly asked about their citizenship status, so that anyone who was not a citizen at the time would not be hired. The EPD started recruiting new officers in January 2015. Part of the recruitment effort was a series of promotional materials, some of which improperly stated that applicants had to be citizens at the time of hire, Reuters reported. However, in truth, officers are required to be citizens within 18 months of hiring, rather than on the spot.
EPD admits to mistake, cooperates with DOJ
Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division, explained her division is dedicated to ensuring that no one experiences unlawful discrimination during the hiring process. She added that her division "commends the city of Eugene for cooperating."
Acting in good faith will often lead to a reduction in fines. The government is in search of malicious intent, more so than it is on the lookout for any mistakes whatsoever. While an unintended mistake may still lead to a fine, an intentional violation of the INA will almost certainly lead to a larger penalty. Hiring tools such as E-Verify or an electronic Form I-9 generation and storage system may help in displaying good faith during an investigation.
"Upon learning the recruitment should have required citizenship within 18 months of hire, as opposed to at the time of hire, [EPD] immediately changed its materials and requirement," Melinda McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Eugene police, explained the mistakes EPD made in a statement. "After several months, [the DOJ] concluded that while EPD had repeatedly advertised an erroneous citizenship requirement, they did not identify anyone who had been harmed."
As part of the agreement with the DOJ, Eugene agreed to pay a $3,000 civil penalty, train employees on the anti-discrimination portion of the INA and subject hiring practices to DOJ monitoring for three years.