Justice Department Settles U.S. Worker Discrimination Claims Against Colorado Agricultural Company
The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado. The settlement resolves a lawsuit the Justice Department filed against the company on Sept. 28, 2017, alleging that the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The Department’s lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. According to the Department’s complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. For instance, the complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them. The complaint also alleged that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment yet hired H-2A visa workers with limited-English proficiency. Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers.
Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not a sufficient number of qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.
The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500.00 to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.
“There will be zero tolerance for companies that violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by hiring foreign visa holders over U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative is committed to fighting discriminatory hiring practices that prevent qualified U.S. workers from obtaining jobs, and we commend Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for bringing this matter to our attention.”
The settlement is part of the Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers.
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 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; 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, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.