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I-9/E-Verify: Preventing Discrimination in Hiring Practices Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on their citizenship or immigration status, or based on their national origin, in the Form I-9 process. It is important for employers to develop, implement and enforce anti-discrimination policies, practices and procedures, and to ensure that all employees conducting Form I-9 verification or E-Verify confirmation understand all program rules. Employers should also provide appropriate and adequate employee education on employer responsibilities and worker rights.

To prevent discrimination, employer’s should treat all people equally when


  • announcing a job
  • taking applications
  • performing interviews
  • making job offers
  • verifying the individual’s authorization to work
  • hiring the individual
  • terminating the individual’s employment

Employers also must not retaliate against a person who             

  •  files a charge of discrimination with OSC or EEOC
  • participates in an investigation or prosecution of a discrimination complaint
  • asserts his or her rights or the rights of another person under anti-discrimination laws

The Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) investigates charges of employment discrimination related to an individual’s citizenship or immigration status or national origin.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also investigates employment discrimination based on national origin, in addition to other protected bases. OSC investigates national origin claims against employers with four to 14 employees, and EEOC investigates national origin claims against employers with 15 or more employees. 

There has been a high level of enforcement by OSC this year concerning the anti-discrimination provision, with three more cases recently publicized in the last month:

  1. OSC settled with Texas-based Infinity Group who required non-citizens present specific DHS-issued documents such as green-cards or employment authorization to establish identity and employment authorization while similarly not requesting the same of US citizens.  They were fined $53,000, had to pay $35K in back pay to those who were damaged as a result of their practices.
  2. OSC settled with PA-based Huber Nurseries for engaging in citizenship discrimination by preferring to hire temporary H-2A visa holders over Permanent Residents (green-card holders).  Huber has agreed to pay $2,250 in civil penalties to the USA and $59,617 in back pay to the six injured parties, who are former refugees; and
  3. OSC settled with IBM for violating the anti-discrimination provision for placing online job postings for software developers with a preference for F-1 and H-1B visa holders.  IBM has agreed to pay $44,400 in civil penalties to the USA.

So, what’s an employer to do?

Employers must accept all documents that are indicated on the List of Acceptable Documents to complete the I-9 form as long as they appear reasonably genuine on their face and relate to the employee. For example, all individuals who possess a driver’s license and unrestricted Social Security card may present those documents to satisfy Form I-9 requirements. Employers may not request or require potential employees to produce “green cards” or United States citizens who look or sound “foreign” to produce birth certificates. The employee chooses which of the acceptable Form I-9 documents to present.  Employers must assure that those charged with the responsibility of I-9 management are trained on I-9 regulations and the anti-discrimination provision of the INA – and they must not          

  • Demand that an employee show specific documents
  • Ask to see employment authorization documents before an individual accepts a job offer
  • Refuse to accept a document, or refuse to hire an individual, because a document will expire in the future
  • Refuse to accept a receipt that is acceptable for Form I-9 purposes
  • Demand a specific document when reverifying that an employee is authorized to work

We recommend that you take some time and read the OSC’s Guide to Fair Employment that can be accessed here, that contains some thought provoking What would you do? scenarios that start on page 6.

Should you have questions or require particular guidance on this topic, please feel free to contact our office.

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