Immigration-Related Discrimination Issues

The Justice Department reached an agreement today with Paragon Building Maintenance, Inc. (Paragon) and Pegasus Building Services Company, Inc. (Pegasus), related janitorial companies headquartered in Long Beach, California. The settlement resolves the department’s investigation into whether the companies violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when checking their work authorization documents.

The department concluded, based on its investigation, that Paragon and Pegasus routinely requested that lawful permanent residents show their Permanent Resident Cards to prove their work authorization while not requesting specific documents from U.S. citizens. Lawful permanents residents often have the same work authorization documents available to them as U.S. citizens, and may choose other acceptable documents besides the Permanent Resident Card to prove they are authorized to work. The investigation further revealed that the companies required lawful permanent resident employees to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, even though federal rules prohibit this practice. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on the employees’ citizenship or national origin.

“Employers may not discriminate against employees when verifying that their employees are authorized to work in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. “We encourage employers everywhere to familiarize themselves with their legal obligations, as Paragon and Pegasus have committed to do by reaching this settlement.”

Under the settlement, Paragon and Pegasus will pay a civil penalty of $115,000 and pay up to $30,000 to compensate any eligible workers who lost pay due to these documentary practices. The companies also have agreed to post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.

The division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, is responsible for enforcing the antidiscrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits, among other things, citizenship, immigration status, and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation and intimidation.

For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email IER@usdoj.govEmail links icon; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.

Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to different documentary requirements based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin; or discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.