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MALDEF Sues ExxonMobil Over DACA Policy

December 28, 2020 (3 min read)

MALDEF, Dec. 28, 2020

"ExxonMobil unlawfully denied a DACA recipient a job based on his immigration status, according to a class-action lawsuit filed last Thursday in federal court.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and William G. Simpson of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen in Chapel Hill, N.C., filed the suit on behalf of Aldo De Leon Resendiz, 22. De Leon is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and is authorized to work in the U.S. He is suing ExxonMobil Corporation for employment discrimination.

The Texas-based multinational oil and gas company is accused of violating Section 1981 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits discrimination in employment contracting based on alienage and national origin. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all non-citizens who were legally authorized to work in the United States but were denied employment by ExxonMobil on the basis of their immigration status.

“Instead of recognizing that DACA recipients are tremendous assets to their employers, ExxonMobil chooses to follow an antiquated policy that prevents and deters work-authorized DACA holders from seeking and receiving employment,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “That policy is discriminatory and unlawful.”

In October 2018, De Leon, a chemical engineering student at North Carolina State University, accepted an internship with ExxonMobil for the spring of 2019. As part of his application for the internship, De Leon submitted documentation to show that he was eligible to work in the United States. De Leon was then asked to submit a second application to the Baton Rouge facility where the company decided he would be working.

In December 2018, De Leon was asked to apply for a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC), which is required by the federal government for workers with access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities and vessels. De Leon discovered that the TWIC Card application did not present an option for DACA recipients in its section about work authorization. After consulting representatives at the ExxonMobil facility in Baton Rouge he was told to change his answer on the ExxonMobil application question about whether he would require sponsorship to work from “no” to “yes”. About two weeks later, ExxonMobil rescinded the internship offer in a letter, informing De Leon that he did not meet the requirements for the internship because he did not “have a permanent or indefinite right to work in the U.S.”

“DACA recipients with work authorizations should not fear unlawful employment discrimination, but rather should be full of aspirations to be employed by the top companies in this country,” said De Leon.  “I am both disappointed and frustrated by ExxonMobil’s decision to not honor my work authorization. I look forward to vindicating my rights in court and removing barriers to economic participation for immigrants like me.”

The lawsuit seeks to require ExxonMobil to pay damages, for a declaration that its policy of requiring job applicants to have permanent work authorization violates federal law, and for changes to their policies.

“No company in making hiring decisions should discriminate against immigrants with work authorization,” said MALDEF attorney Deylin Thrift-Viveros. “It is a shame that Exxon chooses to discriminate on that basis, but we look forward to ensuring that all workplaces make no distinction between undocumented immigrants with work authorization and all other employees.”

The lawsuit is the seventh filed by MALDEF since 2017 challenging employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. MALDEF has filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of DACA recipients who were denied employment in California, New Jersey and Florida.

Since it was initiated in 2012, DACA has provided protection from deportation and granted work authorization to hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Read the complaint HERE."