Immigration Law

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against International Law Firm

DOJ, Aug. 29, 2018 - "The Justice Department today announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Clifford Chance US LLP, a large, international law firm with its U.S. headquarters located in New York. This agreement resolves the Department’s investigation into whether the law firm engaged in hiring discrimination by refusing to consider work-authorized non-U.S. citizens and dual citizens to staff a client project, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 

The Department determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that from March 30, 2017, until at least July 7, 2017, Clifford Chance unlawfully restricted its staffing for 36 positions on a document review project based on citizenship status. The Department’s investigation determined that Clifford Chance’s unlawful practice of excluding otherwise qualified non-U.S. citizens and dual U.S. citizens from the document reviewer positions was based on the law firm’s misunderstanding of the requirements of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The Department found that the law firm improperly terminated or removed three individuals from their positions based on their citizenship status.

The ITAR regulates specific exports of defense articles and services, and – absent State Department authorization – limits access to certain sensitive information to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees.  The ITAR thus does not authorize or require employers to hire only U.S. citizens. Employers that limit their hiring to U.S. citizens without a proper legal basis may violate the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, which prohibits hiring discrimination based on citizenship and national origin.

“Employers subject to the ITAR must be careful not to engage in unlawful discrimination against U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that employers do not unlawfully exclude U.S. citizens and work authorized non-U.S. citizens from employment opportunities.”

Under the settlement, Clifford Chance will offer to pay lost wages to three individuals who were removed from the project, pay a $132,000 civil penalty to the United States, train  relevant employees about the requirements of the INA’s discrimination provision, inform clients who request citizenship status restrictions for staff of the INA’s requirements, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for two years. 

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

More information on how employers can avoid unlawful citizenship status discrimination is available here. For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email IER@usdoj.gov(link sends e-mail); or visit IER’s English and Spanishwebsites. More information on the ITAR is available here.

Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to: different documentary requirements based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin; or discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral, can file a charge or contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance."