As a small or midsize business owner, it is crucial to be aware of and comply with employment laws to protect your business and employees. Failure to adhere to these laws can result in severe penalties and legal consequences. Recently, the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with Florida-based Destin Wings LLC, highlighting the importance of understanding and following immigration-related discrimination laws.
This article aims to raise awareness among small and midsize business owners about the penalties associated with breaking employment laws. This Department of Justice investigation could have been avoided had the restaurant owner trained management on which documents to require when hiring. Asure can train your staff to comply with I-9 and e-Verify regulations. Learn more here.
The Justice Department’s investigation was initiated when a non-U.S. citizen worker filed a complaint against Destin Wings, alleging discrimination related to verifying her permission to work in the United States. The investigation found that Destin Wings violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against the worker based on her citizenship status.
Prohibition of Discrimination
According to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, employers are legally required to verify an employee’s permission to work in the United States. However, they must not discriminate based on citizenship status or national origin during the verification process. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision strictly prohibits employers from demanding specific documents or additional documentation solely due to an employee’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.
Consequences and Penalties
Destin Wings’ violation of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision resulted in significant penalties and obligations. The settlement agreement requires Destin Wings to pay a civil penalty to the United States and provide backpay to the worker who lodged the complaint.
Additionally, the company must conduct training for its staff on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and remain under departmental monitoring for three years.
Importance of Compliance
This case serves as a stark reminder for small and midsize business owners of the importance of complying with employment laws. Discrimination in the workplace not only tarnishes a company’s reputation but also leads to legal repercussions. It is crucial to create a work environment that values diversity, treats all employees fairly, and avoids unnecessary obstacles to work.
Understanding the INA
The INA’s anti-discrimination provision, enforced by the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), covers various aspects of employment. It prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin during hiring, firing, recruitment, referral for a fee, and other employment practices. The statute also addresses unfair documentary practices, retaliation, and intimidation.
Best Practices for Compliance:
To prevent similar legal issues and penalties, small and midsize business owners should implement the following best practices:
Familiarize yourself with employment laws
Stay updated with federal, state, and local employment laws to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal pitfalls.
Provide proper training
Train your staff, particularly human resources personnel, to understand and comply with anti-discrimination provisions, including those related to immigration and national origin.
Establish fair hiring practices
Treat all job applicants equally, without discrimination based on citizenship status, national origin, or any other protected characteristic. Review document requirements: Regularly assess your company’s document verification processes to ensure they comply with the law and do not impose unnecessary burdens on employees.
Foster a diverse and inclusive workplace: Create an environment that values diversity and promotes inclusivity, thereby reducing the likelihood of discriminatory practices.
As a small or midsize business owner, it is your responsibility to understand and comply with employment laws. The recent settlement agreement between the Justice Department and Destin Wings emphasizes the severe penalties that can result from immigration-related discrimination.
By adhering to best practices, fostering an inclusive workplace, and remaining informed about employment laws, you can protect your business and ensure a fair and productive work environment for all employees.