Bakery Chain Settles Workforce Discrimination Claims

Federal prosecutors alleged that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens.

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The Justice Department announced today that it has secured a settlement agreement with New York-based Lady M Confections Co. Ltd. and its West Coast affiliate, Lady M West Third LLC (together, Lady M), companies that operate bakeries and retail boutiques selling confections under the Lady M brand. The settlement resolves the department’s determination that Lady M violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against non-U.S. citizens when checking their permission to work in the United States.

“Employers must verify that their employees have permission to work in the United States but cannot discriminate against them based on citizenship, immigration status or national origin when doing so,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to fight to remove unlawful barriers in the workplace.”

The department’s investigation began when a non-U.S. citizen complained that Lady M refused to accept his valid documentation proving his permission to work and requested additional unnecessary documentation. The department determined that for at least two years starting in January 2020, Lady M discriminated against non-U.S. citizens by demanding that they present specific documentation to prove they had permission to work in the United States. In particular, the department found that Lady M demanded lawful permanent residents show their permanent resident cards (sometimes known as “green cards”) to prove they could work, instead of allowing them to choose from among various acceptable documents to demonstrate their permission to work, as the company did with U.S. citizens.

Federal law allows all workers to choose which valid, legally acceptable documentation to present to demonstrate their identity and permission to work, regardless of citizenship, immigration status or national origin. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from asking for specific documents because of a worker’s citizenship, immigration status or national origin. Indeed, many non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, are eligible for several of the same types of documents to prove their permission to work as U.S. citizens (such as driver’s licenses and unrestricted Social Security cards). Employers must allow workers to present whatever acceptable documentation the workers choose and cannot reject valid documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine.

The settlement requires Lady M to pay civil penalties to the United States, train staff on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, change its policies and be subject to departmental monitoring for a period of two years.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practicesretaliation; and intimidation.

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