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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Pasco, Washington, Vegetable Processing Plant

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Washington Potato Company, which operates the Freeze Pack vegetable processing plant located in Pasco, Washington.  The agreement resolves the department’s investigation into whether Washington Potato discriminated against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their employment authorization, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 


The department’s investigation revealed that Washington Potato routinely requested that work-authorized non-U.S. citizens present specific documents to confirm their citizenship status, such as Permanent Resident Cards or Employment Authorization Documents, while verifying their authorization to work at the Freeze Pack plant, but did not subject U.S. citizens to such requests.  The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.


Under the settlement, Washington Potato will pay a civil penalty of $100,000 to the United States, train its staff, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.  An earlier settlement between the department and Washington Potato Company in May 2017 resolved litigation concerning similar discriminatory conduct by Washington Potato  in its management of another facility located in Pasco, Washington. 


“Employers must ensure that they do not impose unnecessary and unlawful barriers to employment based on citizenship status,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Civil Rights Division.  “We look forward to working with Washington Potato Company to fulfill the terms of this agreement and ensure compliance with the law at all the facilities it operates.”


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.  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


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; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.


Applicants or employees 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 for a fee, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.

Updated November 16, 2017