Baltimore, Maryland - The Department of Justice Wednesday announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Priority Construction Corporation, located in Baltimore, Maryland. The settlement resolves the department’s claims that Priority Construction violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by failing to consider workers in the United States (such as U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, asylees, refugees and recent lawful permanent residents) for employment opportunities due to the company’s preference for workers with H-2B visas.
“Employers should fully and fairly consider the qualifications of all applicants and not allow unlawful preferences based on citizenship or immigration status to affect the hiring process,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to eradicating discriminatory barriers and protecting workers from hiring discrimination.”
The department’s investigation determined that from at least Jan. 1, 2019 to March 11, 2019, Priority Construction discriminated against applicants in the United States by failing to fully and fairly consider them for temporary laborer positions, due to the company’s preference for H-2B visa workers. Specifically, Priority Construction claimed at the time it could not find sufficient qualified U.S. workers, when in fact it had not taken the time to fairly assess the local applicants who had applied to determine if they were qualified. The Department of Labor requires employers seeking permission to hire H-2B workers to first hire all qualified and available U.S. workers who apply by the relevant deadline. The department also concluded that the company attempted to discourage U.S. workers from applying by putting unnecessarily restrictive job requirements in a 2019 job announcement, such as three months of experience, when it would have accepted workers with one month of experience. The INA prohibits employers from refusing to consider, recruit or hire U.S. citizens and protected non-U.S. citizens – such as U.S. nationals, asylees, refugees, and recent lawful permanent residents – because of their citizenship or immigration status.
Under the settlement, Priority Construction will pay $40,600 in civil penalties to the United States, and conduct enhanced U.S. worker recruitment and advertising for future positions. The settlement also requires Priority Construction to be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements and train employees on how to avoid discrimination under the INA.
The Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.