The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with A. Olivarez Harvesting LLC.
The settlement resolves a claim that Olivarez discriminated against two U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status when it denied them crop harvesting positions it had promised them and instead filled the jobs with temporary visa workers through the Department of Labor’s H-2A program, in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
“Employers engage in unlawful discrimination against U.S. workers by giving an advantage to temporary visa workers because of their citizenship or immigration status,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to enforce the anti-discrimination provision of the INA to ensure that employers do not unlawfully deny employment to workers in the community because of their citizenship status, regardless of whether those workers are U.S. citizens or immigrants with permission to work in the United States.”
Based on its investigation, the department determined that Olivarez initially agreed to employ two brothers who are U.S. citizens to harvest corn, but then falsely told them that the harvesting work was no longer available and instead offered them warehouse jobs with a lower hourly wage. Olivarez employed only H-2A visa workers to do the harvesting work during that harvesting season. Under the H-2A visa program, employers are generally required to offer agricultural jobs to qualified U.S. workers before sponsoring and hiring temporary visa workers from another country. Failure to do so could run afoul of the anti-discrimination provision of the INA if the employer’s preference for the temporary visa workers over U.S. workers is based on immigration or citizenship status.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Olivarez will pay a civil penalty for the violation, offer back pay plus interest totaling $14,165.10 (combined total) to the two affected workers, post notices informing workers of their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, train its staff and be subject to departmental monitoring for three years.