Justice Department Settles Retaliation Claim Against Texas Organization

The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Southwest Key Programs (SKP), an organization that operates detention centers in several states, including Texas. The settlement resolves a claim that SKP retaliated against a former employee in violation of the antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

“Employers should never retaliate against workers for stating that they will file a discrimination complaint with the government,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue claims involving employers that retaliate against workers and we are pleased to have recovered financial compensation from Southwest Key Programs for the affected worker.”

According to the Department’s investigation, a former SKP employee applied for several jobs with SKP after receiving his renewed employment authorization documentation. However, an SKP human resource staffer told the former employee that SKP would not rehire him because he previously stated that he would file a discrimination complaint regarding a dispute about his employment documentation. The Department also concluded that the SKP staffer further retaliated against the former employee by spreading misinformation about him to SKP colleagues to prevent him from being rehired.

The INA’s antidiscrimination provision generally prohibits employers from retaliating against workers because they intend to file a discrimination complaint, or for exercising rights protected under that provision.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, SKP will, among other things, give the former employee front pay, and back pay plus interest, totaling over $68,000; pay a civil penalty; train its workers; and be subject to departmental monitoring.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the antidiscrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits discrimination against individuals who are authorized to work based on their citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.

Employers can find information on how to avoid unlawful discrimination based on citizenship status or national origin here. Workers can find information about their rights under the antidiscrimination provision of the INA here. For more information about protections against employment discrimination under the INA, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email IER@usdoj.gov; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites. Subscribe to GovDelivery to receive updates from IER.

Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process (Form I-9 and E-Verify) based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin; or retaliation can file a charge or contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.

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Author: April 3, 2020

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