The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have expanded their collaboration to better protect U.S. workers from discrimination by employers who prefer to hire temporary visa workers over qualified U.S. workers.

justice-and-labor-departments-to-fight-visa-abuseThis new partnership, finalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), establishes protocols for the agencies to share information, refer matters between them, and train each other’s employees, with the goal of better protecting U.S. workers. This partnership will enhance the Civil Rights Division’s efforts to stop companies from discriminating against U.S. workers and assist the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in identifying noncompliance with its foreign labor certification process.

In 2017, the Civil Rights Division launched the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement measures against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers. Under this Initiative, the Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations, filed one lawsuit, and reached settlement agreements with three employers. Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed over $285,000 in back pay to affected U.S. workers. The ETA has assisted the division’s efforts under this Initiative and the new partnership expands and formalizes that relationship.

The Civil Rights Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies, including the Departments of State and Homeland Security, to combat discrimination and abuse by employers improperly using temporary visa workers. The MOU expands on the division’s existing partnership with DOL. In 2017, the division entered into a similar ongoing partnership with DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to combat discrimination and violations of other federal worker protection laws by facilitating the agencies’ information sharing.

“Employers should hire workers based on their skills, experience, and authorization to work, not based on discriminatory preferences that violate the law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “Our partnership with DOL, formalized today, significantly enhances the Civil Rights Division’s ability to identify employers that favor temporary visa holders over U.S. workers who can do the job.”

“Streamlining the process for information sharing between the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice will help protect U.S. workers from unlawful discrimination,” said Rosemary Lahasky, deputy assistant secretary for DOL’s Employment and Training Administration. “This partnership will help ensure U.S. workers are prioritized to fill jobs.”

The Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has statutory and regulatory authority to certify employers seeking certain employment-based visas, including H-2A and H-2B visas.  These visa programs require employers to first seek and hire available U.S. workers before hiring visa workers.

The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practicesretaliation; and intimidation. An employer who prefers to hire temporary visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers may be discriminating in violation of this law.