• Immigration Anti-Discrimination Rules: Lessons Learned from Hilton Hotel Settlement
  • May 25, 2015
  • Law Firm: Cowles & Thompson A Professional Corporation - Dallas Office
  • The Justice Department recently announced that it reached a settlement with Hilton Worldwide (Hilton), an international hotel chain, to resolve allegations that Hilton discriminated against a foreign-born worker. Specifically, the department found that a Hilton-owned hotel in Naples, Florida, discriminated against an asylee by improperly rejecting his valid Social Security card when the hotel re-verified his employment authorization.

    Under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), employers cannot reject an employee’s work-authorization documents because of the employee’s citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

    When verifying or re-verifying an employee’s work authorization, employers must allow workers to choose which documents to present from the list of acceptable documents on the I-9 form, and employers cannot reject documents that reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the worker. Failure to do so is a discriminatory practice called “document abuse.”

    As demonstrated by the recent Hilton case and many others, employers in their diligence to verify employment authorization can violate the anti-discrimination rules by demanding specific documents such as a green card or USCIS employment authorization document (EAD). The most common discrimination charges take place when employers require a permanent resident to present a green card and refuse to accept other valid I-9 documents.

    Employers walk a fine line between I-9 compliance and anti-discrimination rules. To avoid costly charges of immigration-related discrimination, employers should follow this tenet: treat all applicants and employees as if they were U.S. citizens and allow them to present ANY acceptable documents as stated on the I-9 form.

    More specifically, to avoid charges of document abuse, employers should:
    • Not request a specific I-9 document, e.g. a green card, to verify employment eligibility.
    • Not request a specific I-9 document with the intent of discriminating against an applicant.
    • Not refuse to accept an unexpired I-9 document merely because it bears an expiration date.
    • Accept whatever I-9 document the employee presents, if the document is compliant and appears to be genuine.
    Employers who follow these rules and regularly audit their I-9 practices can maintain the balance between employment eligibility verification and anti-discrimination rules. For additional resources in immigration compliance, you are invited to contact our immigration section. Check http://www.cowlesthompson.com/files/hilton&under;settlement&under;agreement.pdf to open a PDF for full details of the Hilton settlement.