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Overview Of The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section

Please note that as of January 18, 2017, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices has been renamed the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).

The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), in the Civil Rights Division, is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1324b, which protects U.S. citizens and certain other 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.


Parties who believes they have been injured or their authorized representatives, should file discrimination charges directly with IER within 180 days of the alleged act(s) of discrimination. Complaints that cannot be informally resolved proceed to trial before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Department's Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO).  OCAHO ALJs specialize in hearing immigration-related employment discrimination cases. 

After IER receives a submission that is sufficient to constitute a charge, IER will begin its investigation.  If IER has not filed a complaint with an ALJ within 120 days of receiving a charge, it will send a letter notifying the injured party or authorized representative of the right to file an administrative complaint against the respondent, and indicating whether IER is continuing its investigation. IER will also notify the respondent of its decision to continue an investigation. IER may also file a complaint with an ALJ after this 120-day investigatory period.

Pre-trial matters are generally handled in accordance with the applicable rules of practice and procedure, and involve discovery, depositions and pleadings. ALJ decisions are 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.

IER also has authority to initiate independent investigations based on information developed during individual charge investigations, or information provided by other government agencies and the general public. Independent investigations typically involve discriminatory policies, practices, or processes that potentially affect many employees or applicants.


IER 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 provisions. IER’s staff is available to participate in seminars and conferences. To find out if there will be any seminars or conferences in your area, or if you would like to organize your own event featuring an IER speaker, please contact IER’s Public Affairs staff at or (202) 616-5594. IER will consider requests to send a staff member from its Washington office to events nationwide for groups of 50 or more attendees.

Other components of the outreach program include a national public awareness campaign, which includes wide distribution of educational materials. Additionally, IER operates employer and worker  hotlines to quickly address questions and resolve problems. IER's early intervention program has proved a successful and cost-effective means of resolving workplace problems before charges are filed. Under this program, IER's staff resolves questions concerning proper employment eligibility verification procedures, and ensures that workers are not refused hire, or fired, based upon misunderstanding of this law.

Questions & Answers about IER

Updated March 7, 2024