The Justice Department reached an agreement with Powerstaffing Inc. following claims the New Jersey temporary staffing company discriminated against work-authorized non-citizens during the hiring process.
An excess burden on lawful permanent residents
The company, also known as Brickforce Staffing, operates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee and Indiana, according to Law360. It connects people to various positions such as an administrative assistant. A federal investigation determined that from June 20, 2014, until around Dec. 15, 2015, the company engaged in hiring practices that violated the Immigration and Nationality Act. The INA bars employers from placing excess burden on individuals during the hiring process, regardless of citizenship status, as long as they are eligible to work in the U.S. For example, requesting green cards from permanent lawful residents, while not asking for specific documents from citizens, would count as an additional burden.
The investigation determined Powerstaffing consistently requested specific immigration documents from work-authorized non-citizens during the hiring process, a press release explained. Meanwhile, the temporary staffing agency allowed citizens to provide whichever papers they wanted for the Form I-9. This unequal treatment is considered a breach of the INA. When filling out the Form I-9, employers should ask new hires to provide the right combination of any List A, B and C documents. This mitigates the chance of a discrimination claim, which can result in large penalties.
"Gupta expressed her appreciation for Powerstaffing's cooperation."
Powerstaffing strapped with $153,000 fine
As part of the settlement agreement with the DOJ, Powerstaffing agreed to a $153,000 fine. In addition, the company will be subject to monitoring and hiring process reviews conducted by the DOJ. Powerstaffing did work with the DOJ, though, which Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, expressed her appreciation for. Once the staffing company learned about the investigation, it retrained staff on the Form I-9 and E-Verify. Another business investigated by the DOJ for discrimination, Crookham Company, was recently praised by Gupta for its participation with the DOJ and preemptive action on improving hiring processes.
"All employers should ensure that when creating Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance plans," Gupta said before praising Powerstaffing's cooperative nature. "they fully understand the relevant rules so that they don't discriminate against workers based on their citizenship status, immigration status or national origin."
Employers should be sure to have compliant processes in place that don't place excess burdens on new hires. Regardless of whether it is intentional, requests for specific documents are considered discrimination under the INA and should always be avoided.