The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) signed a settlement agreement with West Liberty Foods to resolve an investigation into whether the company discriminated against immigrants when verifying their employment authorizing.

The alleged action by West Liberty Foods was a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. (INA).

The DOJ investigation revealed that the company routinely asked non-U.S. citizens hired at its Bolingbrook, Illinois, location to present specific documents, such as permanent resident cards or Employment Authorization Documents, to establish their work authority but did not make similar requests of U.S. citizens. 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 a press release from the DOJ.

Under the settlement, West Liberty Foods will pay a civil penalty of $52,100 to the United States, ensure that its human resources staff participate in department-provided training, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring for two years. 

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“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 DOJ’s 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 Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) 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.

West Liberty Foods, according to the WATT PoultryUSA 2018 Top Turkey Companies Survey, is the 11th largest turkey company in the United States, having processed 235.6 million pounds in 2017.