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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Maryland Produce Distributor

The Department of Justice today announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Pete Pappas and Sons Inc. (Pappas and Sons), a produce distribution company located in Jessup, Maryland. The settlement resolves claims that Pappas and Sons violated the antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by unlawfully requesting specific work authorization documents from non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship or immigration status.

“Employers cannot reject valid work documentation based on the citizenship, immigration status, or national origin of their employees,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We appreciate Pete Pappas and Sons’ cooperation and look forward to working with the company to ensure compliance with the settlement.”

The Department of Justice initiated an investigation after a refugee filed a charge alleging that Pappas and Sons required him to present an unnecessary immigration document during onboarding, even though he had already presented a driver’s license and unrestricted Social Security card, which were sufficient to prove his identity and work authorization. The investigation concluded that a human resources employee at Pappas and Sons rejected valid documents and routinely requested unnecessary immigration documents from non-U.S. citizens because of their citizenship or immigration status, which, in the refugee worker’s case, delayed his start date. The INA prohibits employers from rejecting valid documents and making unnecessary requests for additional work eligibility documentation based on a worker’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

Under the settlement, Pappas and Sons will pay a civil penalty to the United States, provide back wages to the injured worker, train the company’s human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, and be subject to Department compliance monitoring. 

The Civil Rights 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 discrimination against individuals who are authorized to work based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.

Employers can find information on how to avoid unlawful discrimination in the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes here. Employers can find additional information on how to avoid unlawful discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status, or national origin here. Workers can find information about their rights under the antidiscrimination provision of the INA here. For more information about protections against employment discrimination under the INA, 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 IER@usdoj.gov; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites. 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.

Updated July 31, 2019