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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Justice Department Settles Claims Against California Supermarket Chain and Affiliated Money Lender for Discriminating Against Asylee Worker

The Department of Justice today announced that it signed a settlement agreement with Northgate Gonzalez Markets Inc., a California-based supermarket chain, and Northgate Gonzalez Financial LLC d/b/a Prospera Gonzalez, an affiliated payday loan company (collectively, Northgate).

The settlement resolves a claim that Northgate discriminated against a worker with asylum status when reverifying his eligibility to work in the United States, and fired him when he did not satisfy the company’s discriminatory requests, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

“Employers must treat all workers who have the right to work in the United States fairly and consistent with the law, regardless of a worker’s citizenship status, immigration status, or national origin,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John B. Daukas of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting workers from unlawful discrimination.”

Based on its investigation, the department concluded that Northgate did not allow a worker with asylum status to provide his choice of valid documentation to show that he was authorized to work in the United States. Instead, when the employee offered to present an unrestricted Social Security card, which is legally sufficient to prove work authorization during the reverification process, Northgate rejected the document, demanded a document the worker did not have, and fired the worker when he did not present it. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to prove work authorization based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin. Instead, in the INA, Congress determined that all work-authorized individuals, regardless of citizenship status, may choose which valid, legally acceptable documents to present to demonstrate their ability to work in the United States. The INA does, however, permit employers to reject non-genuine looking documents.  

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Northgate will pay over $22,000 in back pay to the injured worker; pay a civil penalty to the United States; revise its policies and procedures; and train relevant employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. 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.  

Learn more about IER’s work and how to get assistance through this brief video. Applicants or employees who believe they were discriminated against based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, recruitment, or during the employment eligibility verification process (e.g., Form I-9 and E-Verify); or subjected to retaliation, may file a charge. The public also can contact IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688; call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); email IER@usdoj.gov; sign up for a free webinar; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites. Subscribe to GovDelivery to receive updates from IER.

The Civil Rights Division wants to hear about civil rights violations. Members of the public can report possible civil rights violations through the Civil Rights Division’s reporting portal.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
21-36
Updated January 12, 2021