Food and Beverage Industry Focus: DOJ Targets Immigration-Related Discrimination

November 13, 2018

The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights section (IER) enforces immigration-related discrimination statutes. Over the past year, IER has investigated several companies in the food and beverage industry for these issues. With a relatively high percentage of immigrant workers employed in certain industry sectors, such as food services, companies should be aware of these risks and ensure they have compliant I-9 and E-Verify practices.

Liability for violations of these laws does not require a specific intent to discriminate. As a result, IER’s investigations often address companies’ inadvertent violations of these laws. Common errors in the I-9 and E-Verify completion process often lead to these charges of discrimination and monetary penalties.

These investigations focus on various issues. Some common themes include the following improper practices:

  • Requiring non-U.S. citizens to present specific documents to prove their work authorization, such as a permanent resident card
  • Requiring non-U.S. citizens to present more documentation than required by the regulations
  • Denying U.S. citizens employment because of a preference for hiring H-2B visa workers

A summary of recent IER settlements and lawsuits is available here. Considering the risks — which include monetary penalties, departmental monitoring, and reputational harm — employers should ensure they have sound hiring practices and compliant I-9 (and E-Verify, where applicable) policies and procedures.