The Justice Department recently reached a settlement with Abercrombie and Fitch following allegations that the company discriminated against a non-U.S. citizen in a breach of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
A complaint was filed with the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices that found the Columbus, Ohio-based company required a non-U.S. citizen, but not U.S. citizens, to provide specific documentation indicating the individual's immigration status, according to a press release. The effort to confirm employment eligibility by mandating that the non-U.S. citizen produce a green card during the Form I-9 process is considered hiring discrimination under federal law. Employers cannot demand specific documents from anyone, regardless of citizenship status.
Following its settlement, Abercrombie and Fitch will have to pay thousands to the complainant and the U.S.
"The division is committed to identifying and tearing down illegal barriers that prevent authorized workers from working," Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "The Civil Rights Division commends Abercrombie for working with the division to resolve this matter expeditiously."
Hiring discrimination leads to significant fines
The settlement agreement between the DOJ and Abercrombie requires the clothing retailer to provide $3,661.14 in back pay to the complainant. In addition, the company will be required to pay a civil penalty to the U.S. and establish a $153,932 back-pay fund to compensate other individuals who may have been harmed by Abercrombie's allegedly discriminatory hiring practices toward non-U.S. citizens. The company will also be subject to monitoring of its hiring practice for two years.
Any time an employer treats one person differently than everyone else because of his or her citizenship status, it may be considered hiring discrimination and is punishable with substantial civil penalties, other charges and long-term monitoring. Instead, hiring managers should make sure that they, and their staffs, treat every new hire the same, regardless of where he or she was born as long as the individual is eligible to work in the U.S.
"Employers should treat every new hire the same."
Previous discrimination problems and Form I-9 mistakes
Abercrombie & Fitch’s agreement to pay a fine of more than $1 million in 2010 for violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to mistakes on their Forms I-9, and not fulfilling obligations to verify employment eligibility.
This isn't the first time that the clothing retailer has been accused of discrimination, either - though the first lawsuit was not concerned with the hiring process. The company previously did not allow employees to wear head scarves, though this restriction was later overturned following a lawsuit, according to The Guardian. In a settlement, Abercrombie agreed to pay thousands to the women affected by its allegedly discriminatory policies regarding head scarves.
Whether it comes in the form of lacking religious accommodations or an improper hiring process, employers should be sure to eliminate any form of discrimination from the workplace to establish an office where all are treated equally, and avoid large penalties.
Click here to learn how a compliant web-based Form I-9 solution can help to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws and employment eligibility requirements.