American Cleaning Company, a green cleaning and maintenance services provider in Brighton, Massachusetts, reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice following claims the company violated the discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
ACC maintains a payroll of over 1,700 employees in the New England area. The DOJ began investigating the janitorial company following allegations it discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens who hoped to join the ACC staff. The INA prohibits employers from requesting specific documents from non-citizens eligible for employment in the U.S., or creating any obstacle that does not exist for similarly qualified citizens. For example, asking work-authorized non-U.S. citizens for their green cards or work visas is a violation of the INA.
"Keep hiring practices uniform regardless of new hires' citizenship status."
What the DOJ investigation found
The DOJ found that from Jan. 15, 2009, until at least Sept. 30, 2015, ACC did exactly that, regularly asking new hires who were not U.S. citizens for specific documents to satisfy Form I-9 and E-Verify requirements. These document requests were a burden that did not exist for U.S. citizens, thus making them a breach of the INA. Employers should allow new hires to provide whichever documents they choose for the Form I-9 and E-Verify, and then confirm whether they meet legal standards for employment authorization verification.
Although the DOJ did not specify which document ACC asked non-U.S. citizen new hires to provide, it did state it was a "List A document." Instead, employers should allow recent hires to bring whichever combination of List A, B and C documents they choose. It is important to clearly specify which combinations of these documents satisfy work eligibility requirements.
"Federal law prohibits discrimination against workers based on their citizenship or immigration status, including during the employment eligibility verification process," Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said. "This Civil Rights Division will continue to protect the rights of lawful, authorized workers to do their jobs without facing discriminatory barriers."
The details of the settlement agreement
The settlement agreement laid out several requirements for ACC, in addition to levying a $195,000 fine against the company. ACC revised its employment policies to prevent any discriminatory scrutiny of citizenship status during the hiring process. In addition, human resource professionals at the company will be required to attend training conducted by the Office of Special Counsel. ACC will also be required to regularly report to the OSC about it's hiring practices
It is important to keep hiring practices uniform regardless of new hires' citizenship status. Otherwise, requests for specific documents could be perceived as discrimination, and lead to a DOJ investigation. It can also help to regularly train employees on INA compliant hiring and proper completion of then Form I-9 and E-Verify cases.