The Department of Justice announced today that El Expreso Bus Company (El Expreso), based in Houston, Texas, has paid over $90,000 to eight U.S. workers pursuant to a May 29, 2019, settlement agreement.
The settlement resolved the Department’s claims that El Expreso discriminated against U.S. workers due to a hiring preference for temporary visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This settlement is part of the Department’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which targets, investigates, and brings enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers because they prefer to hire foreign visa workers. Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed a combined total of more than $1.1 million to U.S. workers and civil penalties to the United States.
“U.S. workers are the lifeblood of our economy, and we are gratified that these U.S. workers have now been compensated for the discrimination that they faced,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate employers abusing temporary visa programs to deny U.S. workers job opportunities.”
The Department’s investigation leading up to the settlement determined that El Expreso failed to consider applications from qualified U.S. workers for its temporary bus driver positions and then petitioned for H-2B visa workers to fill the positions, even though the H-2B visa program requires employers to recruit and hire available and qualified U.S. workers before they receive permission to hire temporary foreign workers. The INA generally prohibits employers from refusing to hire or consider U.S. workers because of their citizenship status.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Civil Rights Division identified victims of discrimination eligible for back-pay awards and determined the amount of those awards. The Department determined that eight U.S. workers were eligible to receive a total of $91,015.35 in back pay.
Under the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, the Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations and reached settlement agreements with seven employers to address this type of discrimination. The Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies to combat discrimination and abuse by employers using foreign visa workers.
The Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.
More information about protections against unlawful citizenship status discrimination is available here. The public may also 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); email IER@usdoj.gov; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites. The public is invited to attend a free webinar on March 19, 2020 discussing unlawful discrimination under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision. Subscribe to GovDelivery to receive updates from IER.
Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to: discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process (Form I-9 and E-Verify) based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin; or retaliation can file a charge or contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.