DOJ sues Farmland Foods over discrimination

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – On June 27, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Kansas City, Mo.-based Farmland Foods Inc., a Smithfield Foods subsidiary, alleging it engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by imposing unnecessary documentary requirements on non-US citizens when establishing their authority to work in the United States.

Farmland required all newly hired non-US citizens and some foreign-born US citizens at its Monmouth plant in Illinois to present specific and, in some cases, extra work authorization documents beyond those required by federal law, DOJ’s investigation allegedly revealed. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to treat all authorized workers in the same manner during the hiring process, regardless of their citizenship status.

Farmland imposed different and greater requirements on non-U.S. citizens and foreign-born U.S. citizens as compared to applicants who were native-born U.S. citizens, DOJ charged.

The lawsuit charging Farmland with discriminatory practices has been filed before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) within the Executive Office for Immigration Review, another component of the Department of Justice. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, which protects work authorized individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of citizenship status or national origin discrimination, including discrimination in hiring and the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process.

In a statement sent to MEATPOULTRY.com, the company said it has not received or reviewed the DOJ complaint. “Farmland is aware the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices has issued a complaint against it,” the statement said.

“Immigrant employees are a key part of Farmland’s workforce and contribute on a daily basis to its success. The company employs a diverse workforce that includes many workers who have lawfully immigrated to the United States. It makes every effort to eliminate barriers to employment for foreign-born workers, while at the same time ensuring that it respects the letter and intent of US immigration law,” the company concluded.
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