Department of Justice Files Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination during Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Process

In another example of just how carefully the U.S. government is examining the process employers in America use when checking the work authorization status of newly hired employees, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center during the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process against non-U.S. citizens authorized to work in the United States, according to a press release from the DOJ. (Update: Justice Department Settles with University of California San Diego Medical Center).

The press release indicates that the DOJ’s independent investigation alleges that the UCSD medical center “engaged in a pattern or practice of subjecting newly hired non-U.S. citizens to excessive demands for documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security in order to verify and re-verify their employment eligibility, but did not require U.S. citizens to show any specific documentation.”  The anti-discrimination provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) “prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin.”

The Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) – which is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA – stated in the press release that all people authorized to work in the U.S. “have the right to work without encountering discrimination because of their immigration status or national origin” and that the DOJ is “committed to vigorously protecting authorized workers from discrimination in the hiring process and ensuring that employers uphold their obligations under the law.”

The DOJ lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the UCSD medical center, monetary damages for individuals harmed, and civil penalties. In an article on the website about the lawsuit, UCSD officials said they had worked with federal officials to understand and comply with the law since being notified that their procedures were improper, and a UCSD spokeswoman stated that the medical center is “now in full compliance with the federal regulations” and is “actively working with the Department of Justice” to resolve the matter.

This is not the first such investigation by the DOJ regarding the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process all employers must use to check the legal work status of newly hired employees. As reported in the ESR News blog ‘Department of Justice Reaches Settlement with Company over Allegations of Employment Discrimination during Form I-9 Process,’ the DOJ reached a settlement of $50,760 with a Louisiana company in July of 2011 to resolve allegations that the company “engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against non-citizens in the hiring and employment eligibility verification process.”

The DOJ lawsuit is an example why U.S. employers need to understand and adhere to Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) documentation rules and best practices. When completing a Form I-9 – the form all newly hired employees are required to fill out to establish their legal right to work in the U.S. under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986  – the rules state employers “are not permitted to request more or different documents than are required or to refuse to honor documents tendered that reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the individual presenting the document.” The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published the ‘M-274: Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form)’ which is available at

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that helps employers comply with Form I-9 and E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification requirements. To learn more about ESR’s 1-9 Form and E-Verify services, visit For more information about background checks, visit ESR at or call toll free 888.999.4474.


About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco, CA area,
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit or call toll free 888.999.4474. 

About ESR News:
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ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at