Friday, November 20, 2015

Bigger Than Ecuador, McDonalds Corp. Investigated by US Justice Department

A little known federal law has resulted in the world’s largest restaurant chain, McDonalds Corp, into having to sign a settlement agreement with the US Justice Department on November 19, 2015. This concludes an investigation into unfair documentary practices by the company going back several years, but it is not the end of the road just yet.

The headlines this morning all boasted the $355,000 civil fine levied against McDonalds, but this is a company with an economy of its own larger than the country of Ecuador! Instead, the real problem at McDonalds right now is the consequences and unforeseen costs of complying with the settlement as well as federal law.

So what was all this about anyway? Why would an organization with vast resources and layers of compliance officers end up in the cross hairs of the Justice Department for something as asking workers who were permanent residents to produce updated documents? For many folks this may seem like the logical thing to do, but assuming or being creative about federal law does not sit well with federal investigators.

Federal Law says that two parties are exempt from having their employment re-verified, American Citizens and Permanent Residents. This is the one group who will ultimately benefit from immigration law as legal residents who belong in this country and they are not to be asked for additional documentation after having already done so. Even the compliance layers at McDonalds could not protect against this violation and it will now cost them well past the civil fine.

The problem perhaps is the constant change to employment verification laws over the past 30 years and American voters are still not satisfied enough is being done. Employers are slow to realize the serious consequences and the very specific details that come into play for verifying employment eligibility. No longer can these regulations be overlooked or corporate practices assumed to be up to date, it is the responsibility of all American employers and the Justice Department is only increasing resources to ensure this.

As this week concludes and the headlines begin to fade away, the rest of the settlement agreement only brings to light the upcoming troubles still in store for McDonalds Corp. Those details include such things as having to produce documentation and regular reports for the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel. Additionally, the company will have to pay for training for all Human Resources Consultants and General Managers.

Five regularly scheduled trainings per month will be attended with the company having to detail and report the attendance records before sending them to the government. Back pay will be offered to workers identified as having been affected by these practices and this even includes people who were terminated. Additionally, the settlement doesn’t bar further suits or investigations into the company and it also specifically opens the company’s documentation and practices to regular review and scrutiny.

McDonalds, with annual hiring of over a million workers, has just found itself a babysitter for the next two years and that problem is far worse than the $355,000 fine.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Violations in Employment Verification Nets Justice Department Multiple Settlements

Over the past several weeks the Justice Department has been issuing nearly regular press releases announcing more and more organizations caught with violations in employment verification practices. These also include an additional complaint being filed against Nebraska Beef Ltd., on October 13, 2015 for breaching a settlement agreement that was just concluded on August 24, 2015. 

The settlement agreement had resolved the Justice Department’s investigation into discriminatory document abuse, specifically on citizenship status of Nebraska Beef’s employees. The company has not paid the $200,000 civil penalty they had agreed to and the case is back on the federal docket.

The very next day October 14, 2015 marked another settlement between Postal Express and the Justice Department following an investigation into the organization. The charge was an employee had been unlawfully put through re-verification of the employment eligibility process and this resulted in his suspension when he couldn’t produce an unexpired green card to his employer.

Postal Express reinstated the employee and paid him lost wages once the investigation began by the Office of Special Counsel. The settlement found that Postal Express unlawfully practiced document abuse and would pay a small civil penalty of $1,000 to the federal government. In addition, the company would have to train employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and revise their policies to avoid discrimination.

Only a day later on October 15 another settlement agreement was reached, concluding yet another investigation. This time the Justice Department was investigating North American Shipbuilding and the settlement resolved the investigation but it came with a cost. 

Among other measures of remediation the Justice Department announced the company would have to submit to training by the Office of Special Counsel, pay the charging party $15,000 in back pay plus a civil penalty to the United States in the amount of $1,750. All of this was the result of North American Shipbuilding retaliating against an employee by barring the person from the company’s premises after the employee filed a charge with the Office of Special Counsel.

As the prior settlement was concluded another was already in the works against three Las Vegas taxicab companies. These were Nevada Yellow Cab Corporation, Nevada Checker Cab Corporation, and Nevada Star Cab Corporation. The charge initially followed an investigation that the companies discriminated against employees who were work authorized because of they were immigrants. These people were required to produce different documentation than employees who were American citizens. The law provides a list of three different options, List A or List B with List C documents.

Each person may choose from these which they would like to provide and employers do end up in trouble when they wrongly request only specific options from the List of Acceptable Documents. This settlement required a penalty of $445,000 to the United States, employee training on anti-discrimination provisions, revised company policies, place six full page advertisements in an industry specific publication for a year advising people of their rights under 8 U.S.C. § 1324b. 

The cab companies would each be subject to departmental monitoring for a period of three years. Unfortunately, this settlement is the result of practices that never had to occur in the first place and cost heavily.

And more recently on October 22, the Justice Department reached yet another settlement with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The Florida organization was the subject of an investigation that was launched to see if there were unfair documentary practices against non-U.S. citizens during employment verification. The Office of Special Counsel found that Miami-Dade County Public Schools required those who weren’t American citizens to produce more documentation than legally necessary. 

This unfairly burdened people with unlawful requests and these same requests were not asked of others who were American citizens. The organization agreed to pay a civil penalty of $90,000 and establish a fund of $125,000 in back pay to compensate those who had suffered losses as a result. The organization will also submit to training and compliance monitoring for three years.

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