The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has reached a settlement with Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., a poultry processing company in Gainesville, Ga. The settlement resolves a long-standing lawsuit filed by DOJ alleging that Mar-Jac Poultry violated the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens when verifying their work authorization.
DOJ filed its complaint on July 14, 2011, after investigating a charge that a worker filed. The complaint alleged that from at least July 1, 2009, to at least Jan. 27, 2011, Mar-Jac Poultry routinely required work-authorized non-U.S. citizens to present a document issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), such as a Permanent Resident Card or Employment Authorization Document, to prove their work authorization, but did not require specific documents from U.S. citizens.
On March 3, 2017, the court found that Mar-Jac was liable for a pattern or practice of this type of discrimination against non-U.S. citizens the company hired between June 16, 2010, and Feb. 9, 2011, leaving monetary and other remedies for future resolution. All work-authorized individuals, whether U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens, have the right to choose which valid documentation to present to prove that they are authorized to work. The INA anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship status or national origin.
“Even an employer that hires many non-U.S. citizens can violate the INA if it treats employees differently based on citizenship status or national origin when verifying their identity and work authorization,” acting assistant attorney general John Gore of the DOJ Civil Rights Division said. “This case demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring that all employers implement the employment eligibility verification process in a non-discriminatory manner.”
Under the settlement agreement, Mar-Jac must: pay a civil penalty of $190,000, pay $1,020 to a refugee the company fired when he did not produce a DHS-issued document to re-verify his work authority, pay up to $23,980 in back pay to compensate other affected employees and applicants, train its employees on the INA anti-discrimination provision and be subject to departmental monitoring for two years.
The division’s Immigrant & Employee Rights Section is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee, unfair documentary practices and retaliation and intimidation.