The Department of Justice recently announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (Panda Express) over the company’s alleged discrimination against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when reverifying their permission to work. The settlement highlights the importance of proper Form I-9 verification and reverification procedures, and exemplifies how the employment of unauthorized workers is not the only legal issue employers must be aware of when hiring employees.
By way of background, INA § 274B (as codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1324B) prohibits four types of unlawful conduct: 1) unfair documentary practices during the Form I-9 and E-Verify process; 2) Citizenship or immigration status discrimination; 3) National origin discrimination; and 4) Retaliation or Discrimination. In this case, the Department of Justice’s investigation concluded that Panda Express unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, which is prohibited by Form I-9 guidance. No similar requests to U.S. citizen workers were made when their documents expired. Additionally, the investigation concluded that Panda Express routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to reverify their ongoing work authorization, despite evidence that they had already provided sufficient documentation.
Under the settlement, Panda Express will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the United States and establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices. The company must also train its human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring requirements.
For more information regarding Form I-9 and the employment verification process, or to develop comprehensive immigration-related hiring processes for your organization, contact us today.