Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Panda Express
The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement agreement with Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (Panda Express), a restaurant chain with over 1,800 locations in the United States. The agreement resolves the department’s investigation into whether Panda Express discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when reverifying their permission to work.
The department’s investigation concluded that Panda Express unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, while not making similar requests to U.S. citizen workers when their documents expired. The investigation also revealed that Panda Express routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to reverify their ongoing work authorization despite evidence they had already provided sufficient documentation. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.
Under the settlement, Panda Express will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the United States, establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices, train its human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
“Employers should ensure that their reverification practices comply with laws that protect workers against discrimination,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department applauds Panda Express for its cooperation during this investigation and its commitment to compensating workers who may have lost wages due to its documentary practices.”
Work-authorized, non-U.S. citizens who lost work at Panda Express between May 31, 2014, and June 28, 2017, due to Panda Express’ documentary practices may be eligible for back pay for the wages they would have earned. For more information, email IER.PEclaims@usdoj.gov.
The division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits, among other things, citizenship, immigration status, and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation and intimidation.
For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, 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 (link sends e-mail); or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.
Applicants or workers who believe they were subjected to different documentary requirements based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin; or discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.