HOUSTON, Texas — The U.S. Department of Justice announced it has settled a discrimination lawsuit against the Aldine Independent School District in Texas.
The Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) investigated accusations of discrimination against work-authorized non-citizens.
The Department accused the ninth-largest school district in Texas of violating the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by requiring non-citizens to present specific documentation when re-verifying their employment eligibility once the original documents had expired, while not requiring “similarly situated” U.S. citizens to do the same.
The statement from the DOJ said that the INA prohibits employers from making documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying or re-verifying an employee’s authorization to work.
The release from the DOJ stated, “The INA prohibits discrimination because of citizenship status and the Civil Rights Division continues to enforce this statute around the country to remind all employers of their compliance obligations as well as to vindicate the rights of employees.”
The Aldine ISD is located in the Houston area and has approximately 70,000 students.
The settlement provides that the district will have to pay a $140,000 penalty and start a new program for three years to train employees, students, and students’ parents on the INA anti-discrimination law.
The training program will have to be designed by Aldine ISD staff and must focus on “educating adult participants in Aldine’s parent literacy/English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, 12th grade students enrolled in certain classes and the school district’s employees.” The program must begin no later than January 17, 2017, and continue until the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year.
Within one week of the effective date of the settlement agreement (date executed by the last party which was 11/22/16), Aldine ISD shall “advise the Office of Special Counsel in writing of the names, job titles business mailing addresses and daytime telephone numbers of Respondent officials or employees designated by Respondent to develop the lesson plans to be used by Respondent officials and employees when conducting the education program (‘1324b Working Group’).”
The federal government is also requiring Aldine ISD to submit proposed lesson plans for approval by the Office of Special Counsel, and “shall permit representatives from the Office of the Special Counsel to access Respondent’s premises and observe any training or class provided pursuant to this education program.” The Office of Special Counsel must notify Respondent in writing at least seven days in advance of their visit.
The OSC’s “If You Have The Right to Work” poster in English and in Spanish must also be posted in the teachers lounge of every school in the Aldine ISD.
The district must also revise, within 60 days from the effective date of the agreement, its employment policies and training materials, and then transmit its proposed policies and training materials to the OSC for “review and approval.” All Human Resources personnel must join the OSC’s email distribution list and attend a webinar training by the OSC “on the anti-discrimination requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b and the employment eligibility verification and reverification processes.”
The settlement also provides that the Office of Special Counsel “reserves the right to make reasonable inquiries of Respondent necessary to determine Respondent’s compliance with this Agreement,” among other requirements.
The DOJ contends that “Under the INA, all workers, including non-U.S. citizens, must be allowed to choose whichever valid documentation they would like to present from the lists of acceptable documents to prove their work authorization, and employers cannot limit employees’ choice of documentation because of their citizenship or national origin.”