The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached an agreement on May 27th with a farm labor contractor, in Bakersfield, California, Luis Esparza Services, Inc. (LES), which resolved claims that LES discriminated against individuals because of citizenship status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The agreement involved the largest civil penalty to date that the DOJ has ever secured for a discrimination claim under the INA.
As determined during the DOJ investigation, LES required work-authorized non-U.S. citizens to produce documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a condition of employment, but did not require the same of U.S. citizen workers. This type of additional documentation burdens placed on some employees and not others is prohibited under the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA.
The settlement agreement provided that LES would pay $320,000 in civil penalties; compensate a worker who lost wages due to LES’s employment eligibility verification practices; undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA; revise its employment eligibility verification policies; and be subject to monitoring of its employment eligibility verification practices for three years.
This case serves as a reminder to all employers that they should have standard operating procedures in place for the completion of Form I-9s that do not discriminate based on national origin and must be followed by everyone involved in the Form I-9 process.