The Justice Department reached four separate settlements with staffing agencies based in Tennessee and California last month following immigration-related discrimination claims.
Three of the companies were based in Memphis, Tennessee. Prestigious Placement, PFSWeb Inc. and its subsidiary, Priority Fulfillment Services Inc., all reached settlements with the Department of Justice to resolve two separate claims of discrimination, according to a press release. The kicker in these cases was that the two claimants were actually born in a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico, making them natural-born citizens of the United States.
Three Memphis companies assumed Puerto Ricans are not citizens by birth.
The claims noted that all three staffing agencies refused to hire the two Puerto Rican individuals because hiring managers at the companies believed that they were born in a foreign country. Each of the claimants' legitimate birth certificates was rejected by the agencies. They were required to present naturalization certificates, which, they did not have, given they are U.S. citizens by birth. Hiring managers' demands that the two produce specific documents violated the rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Employers cannot discriminate against, or ask for specific documents from, new hires regardless of citizenship.
"Puerto Ricans are native-born U.S. citizens who have the same right to work as any other U.S. citizen," Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, explained in a press release. "They should not have to face these types of discriminatory barriers, and the Justice Department is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities."
Pursuant to the settlement, the three staffing agencies will compensate both men for lost wages. Additionally, all three companies will be required to pay civil penalties to the U.S., attend training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, improve their hiring policies and training materials, and have their employment eligibility verification practices monitored for up to two years.
Division of Robert Half reaches settlement following hiring discrimination claim
The same day the DOJ issued a press release detailing the settlement with the three Memphis staffing agencies, another release was issued explaining a settlement between the department and a division of Menlo Park, California-based Robert Half International Inc. Accountemps was also alleged to have violated the discrimination portion of the INA.
"The INA does not allow employers to discriminate based on citizenship."
The release explains that the division of Robert Half International violated hiring laws by refusing to refer an individual to a federal government contracting position because she was not born in the U.S., despite her being a naturalized citizen. The act does not allow employers to discriminate based on citizenship status. Whether a qualified individual was born in the U.S. or in another country should not matter, as long as he or she is eligible to work in this country and meets the job requirements.
"The INA's anti-discrimination provision does not recognize different classes of U.S. citizens when it comes to the right to work in the United States," Gupta explained regarding the settlement. "We applaud Accountemps for its cooperation in addressing the concerns raised in this matter."
Under the settlement, the Robert Half-division will continue to refer the charging individual for positions for which she is qualified. Accountemps will also be required to pay a $2,500 civil penalty, train its staff on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and be subjected to one-year of monitoring of its hiring practices.
Discrimination of any kind is not allowed during the employment eligibility verification process, regardless of where an individual was born or what his or her citizenship status is, as long as the person is authorized to work in the U.S. On a single day, two press releases revealed that four staffing agencies learned this lesson the hard way - through penalties, mandated monitoring, and required training.