West Liberty Foods, a meat-processing business based in Iowa, has reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve discrimination complaints lodged against the company. DOJ had charged that the company’s plant at Bolingbrook, Illinois, had discriminated against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their employment authorization, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 

According to a DOJ news release, investigators determined that West Liberty Foods had routinely asked non-U.S. citizens hired at its Bolingbrook plant to present specific documentation of their permanent residence and employment authorization but did not ask the same from American citizens. The DOJ stated, “The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to more or different documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.”

According to the agreement reached by the Department of Justice and Liberty Foods, the company was informed on May 9, 2017, that an investigation by the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section had commenced. The DOJ concluded on the basis of its investigation that the company had engaged in a "pattern or practice of discriminatory document practices" since at least November 6, 2014.

West Liberty Foods will pay a civil penalty of $52,100 to the federal government, while also requiring that the company’s human resources personnel attend re-education provided by the Department of Justice. The company is also required to post notices informing employees about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision. In addition, the federal government will monitor West Liberty Foods for two years.  

“When verifying an employee’s work authorization, employers must ensure that they do not impose unlawful barriers based on citizenship status,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “We commend West Liberty Foods for its cooperation with the Department’s investigation, and look forward to working with the company to implement this agreement.”  

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

Among the customers of West Liberty are Costco, Pizza Hut, and Subway.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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