Washington, DC - The Justice Department announced Monday that it reached a settlement with the School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida (the District). The settlement resolves claims that the District discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizen employees by asking them to provide specific and unnecessary documentation showing their legal right to work, because of their immigration status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
“Employers must not discriminate against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens due to mistaken assumptions about their immigration status,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the School District of Palm Beach County for working with the Department of Justice to ensure proper implementation of its non-discrimination policy.”
Based on its investigation, the department concluded that the School District requested unnecessary and specific documents from non-U.S. citizens, such as requesting some work-authorized workers to show specific documents in violation of the INA. This included requests for certain individuals to show their Permanent Resident Cards (sometimes known as “green cards”) or Employment Authorization Documents, even though those workers had already shown other documents that proved their work authorization, such as an ID and unrestricted Social Security card.
The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin. Instead, in the INA, Congress determined that all work-authorized individuals, regardless of citizenship status, may choose which valid, legally acceptable documents to present to demonstrate their ability to work in the United States. The INA does, however, permit employers to reject non-genuine looking documents.
Under the terms of the settlement, the District will pay to the United States a civil penalty of $90,000, pay up to $100,000 in back pay to people who lost work due to the unlawful document requests, and train district employees on their legal obligations.
The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.
The Civil Rights Division wants to hear about civil rights violations. Members of the public can report possible civil rights violations through the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal.
Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; or discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process (Form I-9 and E-Verify) based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin; or retaliation can file a charge or contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.
The Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, started in 2017 in IER, targets, investigates, and (where appropriate) brings enforcement actions against employers that intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers due to citizenship-status discrimination based on a preference for temporary visa workers. IER has reached numerous settlements under the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, and employers have distributed or agreed to pay a combined total of more than $1.2 million in back pay to affected U.S. workers and civil penalties to the United States. These settlements involve employers that discriminated in their use of the H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B visa programs.