A Hooters franchisee has agreed to settle U.S. Department of Justice claims it refused to accept an applicant’s work eligibility documentation for Form I-9, according to an April 10 announcement from the agency.
Following a complaint, the department determined that Florida-based Destin Wings LLC, doing business as Hooters of Destin, violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against a non-U.S. citizen while checking her permission to work in the U.S.
“While employers are legally obligated to verify every new hire’s permission to work in the United States, they cannot discriminate based on the employee’s citizenship status or national origin in the process,” Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in the statement.
“The Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously combat unlawful discrimination in the workplace and dismantle unnecessary obstacles to work,” she said.
The investigation started after a worker, who was a non-U.S. citizen, complained that the company refused to accept her valid documentation that showed her permission to work in the country and requested additional documentation. She couldn’t obtain one of the requested documents due to her citizenship status but had permission to work in the U.S., the DOJ said.
Notably, the anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from asking for specific documents — or more documents than necessary — based on a worker’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, the DOJ said.
“Employers must allow workers to present whatever acceptable documentation the workers choose and cannot reject valid documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine,” according to the department.
As part of the settlement, Destin Wings must pay a civil penalty to the U.S., provide back pay to the worker who initiated the complaint, train staff on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to DOJ monitoring for three years.
DOJ has settled similar INA claims in recent years, including another case that involved an alleged refusal of appropriate documents and one that allegedly requested more documents than necessary in its customized verification software program.
DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section enforces the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, which also prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing or recruitment, as well as unfair documentary practices, retaliation and intimidation. The IER provides a resource for employers to avoid discrimination when verifying permission to work.