The Department of Justice recently settled with a sports arena restaurant chain over charges of discrimination against two lawful permanent residents in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The DOJ reached an agreement with Levy Premium Foodservice Limited Partnership, also known as Levy Restaurants, after the department conducted an investigation and learned that the corporation violated INA mandates, which demands equal treatment of employees regardless of citizenship status. The charges against Levy's Brooklyn-based Barclay Center restaurant were filed by a work-authorized immigrant who claimed the discrimination was against two lawful permanent residents and transpired when the corporation failed to properly handle the process of reverifying their employment verification.
Anti-discrimination provision violations bring penalties
Levy violated the INA when it asked the employees to provide certain documents that would not only reaffirm their eligibility to work in the U.S., but then issued a suspension when those requests were not met. This action is in direct violation with the INA's anti-discrimination provision that bars employers from demanding extra documentation based on immigration status or citizenship.
"The Justice Department is committed to ensuring the rights of lawful U.S. workers to be free from discriminatory barriers based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin," stated Civil Rights Division Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler. "We commend Levy for working with the Civil Rights Division to implement the corrective action resolving this matter."
"The settlement includes a $2,500 civil penalty fee and mandatory anti-discrimination training."
Following the investigation and settlement, Levy reinstated the employee and reimbursed him for lost compensation. According to Law 360, the terms of the agreement require Levy to pay a civil penalty of $2,500. In addition, the company must undergo DOJ training on the INA anti-discrimination provision and may possibly face monitoring and reporting requirements from the department.
The Form I-9 process must be the same for all new hires and employees, regardless of what their citizenship status is - and that includes reverifying work eligibility and work authorization. As demonstrated in the above case, and like so many others we see on a regular basis, mishandling these processes can quickly lead to hefty penalties and inconveniences. Employers who violate the anti-discrimination provisions or deviate from the standard work authorization and verification processes put are subject to discrimination claims.
Ensuring INA compliance
When it comes to employee verification and work authorization, employers can't be too careful. All new hires should be asked to bring a qualifying combination of List A, B and C documents that prove U.S. employment eligibility. However, it's also important to keep in mind that complying with the INA isn't just crucial with new hires filling out the Form I-9 or opening an E-Verify case. It's also critical to ensure that lawful procedures are followed when reverifying employees whose work authorization or eligibility documents have - or will soon - expire. All employees must be treated the same, citizen or non-citizen.
Even well-meaning employers can find themselves in hot water for minor missteps made during the verification of employees. To avoid facing similar fines and discrimination charges as outlined above, it's highly recommended that companies conduct internal training on the INA, particularly the anti-discrimination provisions, as well as the Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance.