The Justice Department recently reached a historic settlement agreement with Barrios Street Realty Inc., a company based in Lockport, Louisiana. The agreement resolves claims that the company and its agent, Jorge Arturo Guerrero Rodriguez, discriminated against U.S. workers by preferring to hire foreign workers under the H-2B visa program.
The department’s investigation found that in July 2014, Barrios Street Realty and Guerrero Rodriguez failed to consider or improperly rejected 73 U.S. workers who applied for positions as sheet metal roofers or laborers, and then solicited foreign workers to fill these positions. The department determined that the company’s applications for foreign workers falsely claimed that its earlier efforts to fill the sheet metal and laborer positions failed to identify qualified U.S. workers. Refusing to consider or hire qualified U.S. workers because of their citizenship violates H-2B regulations and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision.
Under the settlement, Barrios Street Realty must create a back pay fund of $115,000 to compensate U.S. workers, pay $30,000 in civil penalties and be subject to monitoring for a three-year period. In addition, Barrios Street Realty acknowledged in the agreement that its misuse of the H-2B visa program constituted valid grounds for debarment from the program and agreed to a voluntary debarment prohibiting it from seeking H-2B visa workers or any other classification of non-immigrant visa workers from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration for a period of three years. This represents the first time the department has obtained a voluntary debarment as a remedy for violating the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.
“Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against U.S. workers in hiring,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to identifying and combating discriminatory hiring preferences that impede the ability of U.S. workers to compete equally for employment.”
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, recruitment or referral, should contact the worker hotline above for assistance.
The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), within the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of citizenship, immigration status and national origin in hiring, firing, recruiting or referring for a fee, and employment eligibility verification.
For more information about protections against employment discrimination under federal immigration law, call OSC’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2525, TTY for hearing impaired); call OSC’s employer hotline at 214-393-4917 (1-800-237-2525, TTY for hearing impaired) or 202-616-5594; email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.justice/gov/crt/about/osc.