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Staffing Company Pays $153,000 to Settle Immigration Discrimination Claims

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Powerstaffing Inc., a temporary staffing agency based in Edison, New Jersey, agreed to pay $153,000 to resolve allegations that its North Bergen, New Jersey, office discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Department of Justice’s investigation found that from June 20, 2014, until at least Dec. 15, 2015, Powerstaffing had a pattern or practice of requesting specific immigration documents from non-U.S. citizens for the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes. In contrast, Powerstaffing allowed U.S. citizens to present whichever valid documents they wanted to present to prove their work authorization. Under the INA, all workers, including non-U.S. citizens, must be allowed to choose whichever valid documentation they would like to present from the lists of acceptable documents to prove their work authorization, such as a driver’s license and unrestricted social security card. It is unlawful for an employer to limit employees’ choice of documentation because of their citizenship or immigration status.

Upon learning of the department’s investigation, Powerstaffing promptly re-trained its staff on proper Form I-9 and E-Verify practices. Among other things, the settlement agreement requires Powerstaffing to pay $153,000 in civil penalties, be subject to department monitoring and review its hiring policies.

“All employers should ensure that when creating Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance plans, they fully understand the relevant rules so that they don’t discriminate against workers based on their citizenship status, immigration status or national origin,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department applauds Powerstaffing for its prompt action to address and resolve this issue.”

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The law prohibits, among other things, citizenship, immigration status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices in employment eligibility verification; retaliation and intimidation.

Badmus advisory: Employers must never ask new hires for a specific document to prove work authorization. To avoid what could be a very expensive mistake, companies need to properly train managers and any employees who are charged with completing I-9 forms. For affordable training options, you are invited to call me at 214-393-4917.

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