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Settlement reaffirms civil rights law protects immigrants

A discrimination case against a national restaurant chain ended in a settlement with the business paying a hefty fine and establishing a fund for workers who suffered adverse effects. California-based Panda Express, which has an estimated 30,000 workers across the nation, ran afoul of the Immigration and Nationality Act when it asked workers for certain documents and put them through procedures that citizens were not subject to.

The primary issues in the case involved the employer demanding immigration documents in a re-verification process that was not required of citizens and requiring that non-citizen residents reestablish authorization to work after expiration of documents on file. Employers are expressly forbidden from asking for certain immigration documents that may cause disparate impact based on national origin or citizenship status.

The company claimed that it did not and had no intention of engaging in workplace discrimination. It further claimed to have taken measures to rectify the situation prior to the settlement. An attorney with the Department of Justice praised the company for cooperating and setting up a fund to repay workers for any lost wages.

Federal law spells out specifically what documents employers can require of their workers both prior to and after the hiring process. This is done to protect these workers from a documentary process that has a disparate impact on them and to prevent further employment discrimination. When employers ignore the law, workers may suffer emotional stress, lost wages and even lost jobs. Non-citizen employees who feel they have been suffered workplace discrimination or been unfairly targeted for their nationality or status may find help with an attorney who has experience with these types of matters.