Immigration Alert: Pizza Chain Settles with Justice Department for Antidiscrimination I-9 Violations

TIME SENSITIVE

Who: Employers with Immigrant Workforces

What: Government immigration enforcement initiatives expose employers with immigrant workforces to fines, government scrutiny, and business disruption

Recommended Action: Proactive legal audit of corporate immigration policies, practices, and I-9’s

Pizza Chain Settles with Justice Department for $140,000 for Citizenship and National Origin “Antidiscrimination” I-9 Violations

At a time of greater governmental focus on immigration enforcement, employers may assume that extra diligence requesting specific documentation from their immigrant employees protects them from I-9 compliance penalties, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  This act alone – employers requesting specific documents from employees to prove their authorization to work in the U.S. – in fact is the trigger to antidiscrimination violations and actually subjects employers to significant penalties for violating this provision of the immigration law.

The case of Pizzerias, LLC (Pizzerias), a pizza restaurant franchisee with 31 locations, illustrates these risks to employers who request specific I-9 documentation from their employees.  After an extensive investigation as to whether Pizzerias violated the antidiscrimination provision of the immigration law by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when checking their work authorization documents, the Justice Department and Pizzerias reached a settlement agreement.

The Justice Department’s investigation concluded that Pizzerias routinely requested that Lawful Permanent Residents produce a specific document – a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) – to prove their work authorization, while not requesting a specific document from U.S. citizens.  Lawful Permanent Residents often have the same work authorization documents available to them as U.S. citizens and may choose acceptable documents other than a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) to prove they are authorized to work.  The antidiscrimination provision of the immigration law prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on Citizenship or National Origin.

Under the settlement, Pizzerias must pay a civil penalty of $140,000, post notices informing workers about their rights under the immigration law’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel and be subject to Justice Department monitoring and reporting requirements.

Given the ongoing high-level scrutiny on employers’ immigration compliance and the clear immigration enforcement initiatives coming from the White House, a proactive legal audit of your corporate immigration policies, practices, and I-9’s may be very beneficial.  Where business and organizational continuity without workforce disruptions are critical to operational success, government fines and other sanctions, disruption to business, and on-going government scrutiny can have a heavy impact on the bottom line.  Contact Michael Kabik, Chair of Shulman Rogers’ Immigration Practice Group, to discuss how we may be able to assist with immigration legal compliance, proactive initiatives, and best practices.

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