The Justice Department and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States recently came to an agreement in an effort to mitigate instances of discrimination in the hiring process.
An effort to fight hiring discrimination
The deal established a formal partnership between the agencies that will work to build safeguards against discrimination based on national origin, citizenship and immigration status during the hiring process. Mexican Ambassador Carlos Sada met with Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, and the two signed a memorandum of understanding designed to encourage collaboration between the Mexican embassy and the Department on worker education.
"The Mexican government plays a vital role in helping the Justice Department ensure workers know about their rights and the protections the law provides," Gupta explained. "Mexico has taken a leading role in Labor Rights Week, ensuring that workers in Mexico and throughout the world know about their rights in the workplace and where to access help and support. I thank our Mexican counterparts for their collaborative partnership in our shared mission to empower workers and combat discrimination."
Discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status, as well as national origin, is a frequent focus of DOJ investigations. This can be a breach of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and lead to substantial penalties. American Cleaning Company, a Brighton, Massachusetts, cleaning and maintenance business, recently settled with the DOJ over discrimination charges and was required to pay a $195,000 fine. And just before that, a San Diego staffing firm, Cumberland Staffing Inc., doing business as AtWork Cumberland Staffing, reached an agreement with the department that included a $175,000 penalty.
Ensuring hiring practices comply with the INA
As the government continues to focus on ensuring employers are compliant while hiring, companies have to pay close attention to their own human resource policies. Especially given the number of work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in the workforce. The so-called "rapid growth" of the Mexican immigrant population has reached a plateau in recent years, but there is still a sizeable population of legal immigrants in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute. In 2014, there were more than 11.7 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S., 28 percent of all foreign-born U.S. residents. Though most new immigrants are coming from China and India, The U.S. and Mexican governments still find it important to teach work-authorized immigrants who've left the former country for the latter about their employment rights.
The MOU between the Mexican embassy and the DOJ outlines a number of efforts to improve immigrants' knowledge of their rights as employees during the hiring process. The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices will train embassy staff on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and contribute to events sponsored by the embassy to educate Mexican immigrants and employers on compliant hiring policies. In addition, the agreement will establish a system through which the embassy and its consulates will direct discrimination claims to the OSC.
Employers can do their part for ensuring the rights of non-U.S. citizen's eligible for employment in the U.S. are respected, as well. Not only will this ensure that these individuals have an equal path to employment, but it will also help businesses avoid fines for INA violations. Establish uniform hiring policies for all new employees, regardless of citizenship status, to ensure compliance with the INA. In addition, it is important to make sure staff is trained on proper Form I-9 completion. These preventative measures can help employers avoid DOJ investigations for employment law violations and the fines that often follow.
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