An Overview of the Office of Special Counsel for
Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices
The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), in the Civil Rights Division, is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. ï½§ 1324b, which protect U.S. citizens and certain work authorized individuals from employment discrimination based upon citizenship or immigration status. The INA also protects all work authorized individuals from national origin discrimination, unfair documentary practices relating to the employment eligibility verification process, and from retaliation.
Injured parties file discrimination charges directly with OSC's Washington, D.C. office within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination. OSC may investigate charges for up to 210 days after receipt of the charge. During the final 90-day period, OSC and/or the injured party may file an administrative complaint against the employer.
Complaints are tried before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who is specially trained to hear immigration-related employment discrimination cases. Pre-trial matters are generally handled in accordance with rules of civil procedure, and involve discovery, depositions and pleadings. ALJ decisions are directly appealable to the federal circuit courts of appeals. Settlements or successful adjudications may result in civil penalty assessments, back pay awards, hiring orders and the imposition of injunctive relief to end discriminatory practices.
OSC also initiates independent investigations based on information developed during individual charge investigations, or leads provided by other government agencies and the general public. Independent investigations normally involve alleged discriminatory policies that potentially affect many employees or applicants. These investigations may result in complaints alleging a pattern or practice of discriminatory activity.
OSC conducts an outreach and education program aimed at educating employers, potential victims of discrimination, and the general public about their rights and responsibilities under the INA's anti-discrimination and employer sanctions provisions. Each year OSC awards grants to organizations across the country to conduct local public education campaigns. Additionally, OSC's staff directly participates in many public education and outreach activities. This includes making presentations at conferences, seminars and meetings held by interested groups regarding employee and employer rights and obligations under INA. Other components of the outreach program include a national public awareness campaign, which includes wide distribution of educational materials, and at times, public service announcements. Additionally, OSC operates employer and employee hotlines to quickly address questions and resolve problems. OSC's early intervention program has proved a successful and cost-effective means of resolving workplace problems before charges are filed. Under this program, OSC's staff resolves questions concerning proper employment eligibility verification procedures, and ensures that workers are not refused hire, or fired, based upon misunderstanding of the law.
OSC, in partnership with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has participated in workshops for employers throughout the United States to increase understanding of employer sanctions and protections against discrimination. In an effort to increase accessibility to its services and resources, OSC has signed and/or reinvigorated memoranda of understanding with numerous state and local human rights agencies, where individuals can now obtain information about OSC and file charges of immigration related employment discrimination. These agreements permit individuals who file a timely charge of discrimination with an OSC memorandum of understanding partner to have their charge also considered by OSC, if it falls within OSC's jurisdiction.