The Justice Department has settled on an agreement with Oregon’s second largest city, Eugene, after an investigation into the possible violation of anti-discrimination laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The investigation revealed that the city was responsible for improperly restricting law enforcement positions to US citizens. Under the INA, it is prohibited to exclude non-US citizens from consideration in such positions unless required to by law, executive order, or government contract. They should be Equal Opportunity Employers, i.e. non-discriminatory towards people of any gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, marital status or veteran status.
However, the investigation uncovered that police officers were asking applicants about their citizenship status with the intent of excluding them if they were not a US citizen at the time of hire, and have now been ordered to pay a civil penalty, be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department for three years, and must also train employees about the INA’s anti-discrimination policies.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who is head of the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, said she commended the way the city of Eugene cooperated with the Department and addressed the situation so quickly. She also said that “The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that individuals who are authorized to work in the United States do not face unlawful discriminatory barriers.” The OSC (The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, part of the Civil Rights Division) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination laws, and will act if employers engage in any of the following:
- Hiring or firing any employee based on their national origin or citizenship status, e.g. refusing to hire someone because of a foreign accent or appearance.
- Giving preference to applicants who hold a certain citizenship or visa status, unless mandated by law or government contract. It is unlawful for an employer to choose US citizens or temporary visa holders over any other worker.
- “Document abuse”, i.e. asking applicants for more evidence of citizenship status than is required by law. Form I-9 gives a list of all acceptable documentation to ask for when hiring workers.
- And as with the case in Eugene, employers may not retaliate against workers who assert their rights under the anti-discrimination laws, or they are subject to civil penalties, changing their internal policies, and being monitored by the DoJ.
Anyone who believes they or someone they know has been subject to discrimination in the workplace based on their country of origin or immigration status should be sure to get in touch with Daniela Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm. You can get in contact via the website or by calling 512-215-5225.