San Antonio, Texas - The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it has reached a settlement agreement with MUY Brands LLC, a San Antonio-based owner and operator of approximately 78 Taco Bell restaurant franchises in six states, and a related management company, MUY Consulting Inc. The settlement resolves the Department’s investigation into whether the companies violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against lawful permanent residents because of their citizenship status when verifying their authorization to work in the United States.
"Employers cannot require that a worker provide more or different documents than necessary to legally prove work authorization based on the worker’s citizenship status or national origin,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act and rooting out unlawful discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process to help ensure equal employment opportunities.”
The Department’s investigation concluded that, from at least July 2015 to March 2017, MUY Brands and MUY Consulting required specific work authorization documents from all lawful permanent residents who worked at their Taco Bell restaurants, while not imposing a similar requirement on U.S. citizens. As a result, some lawful permanent residents lost work opportunities, even though they had presented sufficient documentation to prove their authorization to work. Federal law allows all work-authorized individuals, regardless of citizenship status, to choose which valid, legally acceptable documents to present to demonstrate their ability to work in the United States. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship status or national origin.
Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will pay a civil penalty of $175,000, establish a $50,000 backpay fund to pay affected workers, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. Additionally, certain employees will be required to attend training on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.
The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.