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Justice Department Marks Two Years Since Launch of the “Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative”

April 4, 2019

In 2017, the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) launched the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which targets, investigates, and brings enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers.  Over the last two years, IER has secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and other relief for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens with work authorization. 

This Initiative is based on the law IER enforces, which prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing and recruiting based on citizenship, immigration status and national origin.

Under the law, employers generally cannot restrict hiring to only U.S. citizens unless they are required to do so by a law, regulation, executive order, or government contract.  This law also prohibits employers from preferring to hire temporary visa holders over qualified and available U.S. workers. 

The term “U.S. workers” includes more than just workers born in the U.S.  Naturalized U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, refugees and people granted asylum are other examples of U.S. workers. 

Under the Initiative, IER has opened dozens of investigations and reached five settlements. As part of one settlement, a company set aside $85,000 to compensate certain persons harmed by the company’s practices of preferring to hire seasonal visa holders over U.S. workers. 

IER has also continued to address other unlawful forms of discrimination outside of the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, including resolving claims that:

For more information about protections against employment discrimination under this law, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.

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Updated January 20, 2021