The Department of Justice has reached a settlement agreement with United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), resolving allegations that the company discriminated under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), when it impermissibly reverified the work authority of lawful permanent residents and required some non-citizen workers to provide specific I-9 documentation.
A lawful permanent resident alleged UNFI improperly terminated him after he failed to produce an
unexpired lawful permanent resident card in connection with an erroneous reverification of his employment eligibility. The charging party had presented proper work authorization documentation at the time of hire, and UNFI had no reason to suspect that his documentation was not genuine. The employee had permanent work-authorization, but lost three weeks’ worth of wages as a result of UNFI’s practice.
The DOJ’s investigation revealed UNFI reverified the documentation of similarly-situated lawful permanent residents when their documentation expired but did not reverify expired documentation of U.S. citizens. The anti-discrimination provision prohibits treating employees differently in the employment eligibility verification and reverification processes based on citizenship or national origin.
In response to the department’s investigation, UNFI conducted an internal audit and undertook
immediate corrective action to address and rectify its employment eligibility verification policies and practices. As part of its corrective action, UNFI rehired the charging party and gave him full back pay. Under the settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $3,190 in civil penalties, to conform all of its actions to ensure compliance with the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and to train its human resources personnel about the company’s responsibility to avoid discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process.
Bruce E. Buchanan is an attorney at the at Nashville Office of Siskind Susser, P.C. He represents individuals and employers in all aspects of immigration law, with an emphasis on immigration compliance for employers, and employment/labor law. Mr. Buchanan received his law degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1982 and a B.S. degree from Florida State University, where he graduated magna cum laude. Mr. Buchanan has been in private practice since 2003. Beforehand, he served as Senior Trial Specialist for the National Labor Relations Board for 20 years. He also served from 1991 to 2003 as Adjunct Professor at William H. Bowen UALR School of Law, where he taught courses in Labor Law and Employment Law. Mr. Buchanan was chair of the Tennessee Bar Association's Immigration Law Section from 2011 to 2012 and has been the editor of the TBA's Immigration Law Section Newsletter and the TBA's Labor and Employment Law Section Newsletter since 2009. Mr. Buchanan is a frequent writer and speaker on immigration compliance as well as labor law, wage & hour law and proposed federal legislation. He is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and serves as the Advocacy Liaison of the Mid-South Chapter of AILA. Mr. Buchanan also serves on the Board of Directors for the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) and is an associate member of the Mid-Tennessee Chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors. Mr. Buchanan is admitted to practice in Tennessee, Florida, and Arkansas, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and D.C. Circuits and the U.S. District Courts for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.