The Department of Justice has paid particular attention to citizenship discrimination in recent years, and such cases have yielded a number of large fines as evidence of the agency's efforts. Now, the DOJ is expanding its efforts to crack down on Immigration and Nationality Act violations by increasing the number of languages it accepts in online complaints.
INA violations a recent priority for the DOJ
The INA prohibits employers from placing excess burdens on individuals during the hiring process on the basis of nationality or citizenship status. As long as a new hire is eligible to work in the U.S. - whether the individual holds a valid visa, is a legal permanent resident or has obtained work authorization through another means - he or she should be put through the same hiring requirements as everybody else. For example, requesting a green card from a lawful permanent resident would be considered discrimination, because employers typically do not make similar requests of U.S. citizens.
The DOJ's move to accept complaints in 11 languages is another step in its attempts to crackdown on employer discrimination in recent years. In addition to Form I-9 violations, INA noncompliance has become a major snag for employers in a hiring environment heavily scrutinized by the government for instances of wrongdoing. Recently TEG Staffing Inc., also known as Eastridge Workforce Solutions, settled with the department over charges of discrimination in violation of the INA. The staffing agency was required to pay a $175,000 civil penalty as part of its agreement with the DOJ.
OSC to accept complaints in French, Arabic, Chinese and more
This sort of settlement has become a common feature of the DOJ's moves to target employers for hiring violations in recent years. The department's most recent step was expanding language capabilities beyond English and Spanish to include Arabic, Chinese, Korean, French, Haitian Creole, Tagalog, Russian, Portuguese and Vietnamese. Individuals who speak these languages will be able to submit their complaints through fax, mail or email and the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices will translate them.
Employers should be sure their hiring practices are compliant with the INA to avoid large fines such as the one recently levied against TEG. Document requests that treat everyone equally, regardless of citizenship status, are an important part of this. Additionally, Form I-9 compliance education and safeguards - especially with the summer's Form I-9 penalty increase - can swerve to protect employers.