On November 6, 2011, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it filed a lawsuit against the University of California, San Diego Medical Center (“Medical Center”) for allegedly engaging in a practice of immigration-related discrimination. The DOJ claims that the Medical Center engaged in a pattern and practice of requiring their non-citizen employees to produce specific documentation produced by the Department of Homeland Security for purposes of completing the non-citizen employee’s Form I-9. The Medical Center allegedly did not have the same requirements when completing I-9s on U.S. citizen employees. The DOJ apparently seeks an injunction against the Medical Center, damages for any person allegedly harmed by the Medical Center, and civil penalties.
Corporate Immigration Attorney’s Take: Immigration compliance is a careful balance. Employers are not only required have an immigration compliance system but they are also required by law not to discriminate against work authorized individuals. An example of conduct that the DOJ believes constitutes “immigration-related discrimination” is requiring employees to produce specific documents for the purposes of completing the employee’s I-9. It is in every employer’s best interest to train those employees in charge of immigration compliance and those in charge of completing I-9s so they do not engage in a practice that the government may view as immigration-related discrimination.