Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Farm in Indiana Alleging Discrimination Against Work-Authorized Non-Citizens

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The Justice Department announced today the filing of a lawsuit against a major U.S. egg producer based in Seymour, Ind., alleging that they had engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against work-authorized non-citizens in the employment eligibility verification process.  The farm operates in more than 40 locations in six states.

The complaint alleges that the Farm had a standard practice of subjecting newly hired non-U.S. citizens to unauthorized demands for more, different or specific documents issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to verify their employment eligibility, while U.S. citizens were permitted to present their choice of documentation.  The Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin. According to the complaint, the Farm purchased an electronic employment eligibility verification software system in June 2009 that may have prompted human resource officials to demand certain documents from non-U.S. citizens.  The complaint seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination, changes in the Company’s policies and procedures for verifying employment eligibility, monetary damages for those harmed by the Farm’s actions, and civil penalties.

“The INA’s anti-discrimination provision requires employers to treat employees equally in the employment eligibility verification process, regardless of citizenship status or national origin,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The department is committed to removing discriminatory hurdles to employment through the enforcement of the anti-discrimination provision.”

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, which protects work authorized individuals against discrimination in hiring, firing and recruitment or referral for a fee on the basis of citizenship status and national origin.  The INA also protects all work-authorized individuals from discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process and from retaliation.

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