California has a long history of supporting workers' rights, but could the rest of the nation be catching up? If you believe that an employer discriminated against you because of your national origin during or after the hiring process, then an evolving governmental stance on the rules might work in your favor.
Discrimination During The Verification Process
Since the mid-1980s, employers have been legally bound to verify that their prospective employees are really who they claim to be and eligible for U.S. employment. Unfortunately, some companies seem to have embraced this responsibility with a bit too much enthusiasm.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, companies have been known to overstep their bounds while investigating the personal histories of job applicants. The real problem occurs when such companies then discriminate between applicants based on factors such as citizenship status or national origin. While this is obviously illegal, courts have historically applied the law in a way that left some hiring companies with wiggle room for wrongdoing.
New Standards Are Unveiled
Just two weeks into January 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ), issued fresh guidance for employers who use the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form or the E-Verify electronic version published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The memorandum reaffirmed in no uncertain terms that employers shouldn't view their I-9 obligations as grounds to treat some workers differently from others. It also stated that companies that mistakenly violate the law might still be held guilty of discrimination.
As an employee going through the verification process, you have the opportunity to choose from of a list of documents that prove who you are. Interviewers aren't allowed to ask you for specific documents because they could potentially use them to gain information that makes discrimination possible. For instance, if interviewers request passports, they might then use the information to favor candidates from some countries at the expense of those from others.
The new DOJ guidance reinforces the fact that employers can't ask for specific documents during the verification process or after you've been hired - regardless of whether the company's intention is good or not. If your company does anything but let you present the documentation that you feel comfortable supplying from the list of options, then it may have broken the law.
Learn more about your rights in California by talking with one of our experienced employment law attorneys today.