Washington, DC - The Department of Justice Tuesday announced it has reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft Corporation resolving allegations that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status during the early stages of Microsoft’s hiring process by asking them for unnecessary, specific immigration documents to prove they could work for the company without needing its sponsorship for work visas. The settlement also resolves claims that the company discriminated against lawful permanent residents whom the company asked for more or different documents than legally required, to reverify their continuing permission to work in the United States.  

The department’s independent investigation began after a Microsoft applicant’s spouse called IER’s hotline to report that the company asked her husband for his Permanent Resident Card while he was applying for a job at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, facility. The investigation found evidence that the company repeatedly asked lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees to undergo an evaluation of their need for Microsoft to sponsor them for an employment-based visa even though they do not require sponsorship to work in the United States. The investigation determined that the company discriminated against at least six lawful permanent residents based on their immigration status during this visa evaluation process, by asking them to show a Permanent Resident Card to prove they had permission to work without employer sponsorship. The investigation also determined that from at least June 2019 until at least January 2020, Microsoft routinely sent emails to lawful permanent residents asking them for documents to confirm their continued work authorization even though they had already provided documents showing permanent work authorization.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to verify a worker’s permission to work in the United States. But the law also prohibits employers from asking for documents when not required or from limiting or specifying the types of valid documentation a worker is allowed to show to prove permission to work, because of a worker’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin. Under the settlement, Microsoft will overhaul parts of its hiring process to ensure the company is not unlawfully requiring non-U.S. citizen job applicants, including those with permanent authorization to work, to provide specific immigration documents to prove they do not require sponsorship for a work visa. The settlement also requires the company to stop sending emails requesting documents to reverify work authorization to workers whose work authorization should not be reverified. Additionally, the settlement requires the company to allow workers who need to show their continued work authorization to provide their choice of documentation that is acceptable for that purpose. Microsoft also must pay civil penalties to the United States and train its employees who are responsible for verifying and reverifying workers’ permission to work in the United States. The settlement also requires Microsoft to be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. 

“The Department of Justice will continue, through investigations and settlements such as this one, to ensure that all non-U.S. citizens who are authorized to work can pursue job opportunities without facing unlawful discrimination,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department also hopes that this settlement will inspire other employers to ensure that their own policies and practices are not discriminatory.”

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 discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.