Houston, Texas - The Department of Justice Wednesday reached a settlement agreement with El Expreso Bus Company (El Expreso), a company that provides intercity passenger bus service, headquartered in Houston, Texas. The agreement resolves the Department of Justice’s investigation into whether El Expreso unlawfully denied employment to qualified and available U.S. workers because it preferred to hire temporary visa workers with H-2B visas.

This agreement is the sixth settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers.

The Department’s investigation determined that El Expreso failed to consider applications from qualified U.S. workers for its temporary bus driver positions and then petitioned for H-2B visa workers to fill the positions, even though the H-2B visa program requires employers to recruit and hire available and qualified U.S. workers before they receive permission to hire temporary foreign workers. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from discriminating in the hiring process based on a worker’s citizenship status or national origin. Refusing to hire or consider U.S. citizens because of their citizenship status violates the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.

“Employers cannot discriminate against qualified U.S. workers because they prefer to hire visa holders,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “This agreement is part of the Civil Rights Division’s continuing commitment to protect U.S. workers from discrimination, and we look forward to working with El Expreso as a partner in compliance.”

Under the settlement, El Expreso must engage in enhanced recruiting and job advertising efforts to attract qualified U.S. workers before using temporary visa programs. El Expreso must also set aside $197,500 to pay any wages lost by U.S. workers whose applications it improperly rejected or ignored, pay $31,500 in civil penalties to the United States, and be subject to monitoring compliance by the Department of Justice.

Under the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, the Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations, filed one lawsuit, and reached settlement agreements with six employers. Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed nearly $1 million in back pay to affected U.S. workers and civil penalties to the United States. The Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies to combat discrimination and abuse by employers using foreign visa workers. 

The Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.