Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims Against J.C. Penney
The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc. (J.C. Penney). The agreement resolves two investigations, one into whether J.C. Penney unlawfully rejected a lawful permanent resident’s valid work authorization documentation, and the other into whether J.C. Penney violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by unlawfully reverifying the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status.
The Department’s first investigation was prompted by a lawful permanent resident’s charge alleging that J.C. Penney violated the INA’s anti-discrimination provision when J.C. Penney fired her in August 2016. The investigation found that J.C. Penney had improperly rejected the worker’s unexpired Permanent Resident Card as proof of her work authorization, based on her citizenship status. The second investigation found that J.C. Penney had unlawfully reverified the work authorization of certain non-U.S. citizens solely based on their citizenship status, even though those non-citizens had presented the same type of valid work authorization documents as U.S. citizens when first hired. The Department also found that J.C. Penney unlawfully requested specific immigration documents from certain workers during the process of reverifying their work authorization because of their immigration status. Among other things, the INA prohibits employers from (1) rejecting valid work authorization documents, (2) limiting a worker’s choice of documentation to present for employment verification or reverification purposes, and (3) subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands, based on the employee’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.
Under the terms of the settlement, J.C. Penney will pay a civil penalty of $14,430 to the United States, provide $11,177.60 in back pay to the worker who filed the charge, train its staff and corporate human resources personnel, post notices informing workers about their rights, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
“Employers should not impose unlawful and discriminatory burdens on employees based on their citizenship or immigration status during the reverification process,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “It is critical for all employers to correctly train their employees on proper Form I-9 procedures at both initial hiring and reverification, and I am pleased that J.C. Penney has agreed to undertake such training.”
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.