Washington, DC - The Department of Justice Wednesday announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Pete Pappas and Sons Inc. (Pappas and Sons), a produce distribution company located in Jessup, Maryland. The settlement resolves claims that Pappas and Sons violated the antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by unlawfully requesting specific work authorization documents from non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship or immigration status.

“Employers cannot reject valid work documentation based on the citizenship, immigration status, or national origin of their employees,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We appreciate Pete Pappas and Sons’ cooperation and look forward to working with the company to ensure compliance with the settlement.”

The Department of Justice initiated an investigation after a refugee filed a charge alleging that Pappas and Sons required him to present an unnecessary immigration document during onboarding, even though he had already presented a driver’s license and unrestricted Social Security card, which were sufficient to prove his identity and work authorization. The investigation concluded that a human resources employee at Pappas and Sons rejected valid documents and routinely requested unnecessary immigration documents from non-U.S. citizens because of their citizenship or immigration status, which, in the refugee worker’s case, delayed his start date. The INA prohibits employers from rejecting valid documents and making unnecessary requests for additional work eligibility documentation based on a worker’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.

Under the settlement, Pappas and Sons will pay a civil penalty to the United States, provide back wages to the injured worker, train the company’s human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, and be subject to Department compliance monitoring. 

The Civil Rights 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 discrimination against individuals who are authorized to work based on citizenship, immigration status, and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.