The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that it reached a settlement with an agricultural company located in California. The settlement concludes an investigation into whether the company discriminated against workers based on their legal status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. This provision prohibits discrimination against individuals who are authorized to work based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation. It also prohibits an employer from making unnecessary requests for credentials to establish employment authorization based solely on a worker’s citizenship status or national origin.

The investigation concluded that the company discriminated against workers in lawful permanent resident status by unnecessarily requiring them to re-establish their legal status when their original credentials expired, even though the original credentials demonstrated that the workers were permanently authorized to work in the United States and were not subject to re-verification. Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay a civil penalty, train its human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and be subject to continuing compliance monitoring by the Department of Justice.

This settlement should make employers carefully examine their employment compliance procedures to ensure that they do not discriminate against new or current employees during the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) process.