The Department of Justice announced Jan. 10 that it has reached a settlement agreement with Buddy’s Kitchen Inc., a Minnesota-based company that produces and distributes frozen foods. The settlement resolves claims that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status when checking their permission to work in the United States.
“Under federal law, employers may not discriminate by asking workers for specific documents to prove their permission to work based on the workers’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Employers must allow all employees — U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike — to provide any valid, acceptable document of their choice to prove their permission to work. The Civil Rights Division will continue to investigate and take action to stop unlawful discrimination on the basis of citizenship, immigration status and national origin. We look forward to working with Buddy’s Kitchen to secure compliance with this settlement.”
The department initiated the investigation to determine whether the company was violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision. The department’s investigation revealed that the company routinely discriminated by asking non-U.S. citizens, primarily lawful permanent residents, to present specific, Department of Homeland Security-issued documents to prove their permission to work in the United States, while making no such request of U.S. citizens. All employees have the right to choose the valid documentation they wish to present when demonstrating that they have permission to work in the United States.
The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from asking for unnecessary documents — or specifying the type of documentation a worker should present — to prove their permission to work, because of a worker’s citizenship, immigration status or national origin.
Under the settlement, Buddy’s Kitchen will pay $40,000 in civil penalties, change their employment policies to comply with the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and train its employees who are responsible for verifying workers’ permission to work in the United States.