Gap settles over US immigration status discrimination case

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American clothing retail giant, Gap Inc., has settled federal charges alleging discrimination against employees who are non-US citizens because of their US immigration status, according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) announcement. The company, with headquarters in San Francisco, will pay a $73,263 civil fine for alleged violations.


The clothing retail giant will also have to provide back wages to two employees who lost their jobs because of its practices, plus the company will have to upgrade its employee training worldwide. 

The settlement ends a reported three-and-a-half-year investigation into Gap’s conduct, after the company denied any wrongdoing toward non-US employees based on their US immigration status. A Gap statement said: “The company’s action did not violate a 1986 federal law against US immigration-related employment discrimination.”


Reverifying employment eligibility

A lawsuit brought against Gap accused the clothing retail giant of ‘unnecessarily reverifying the employment eligibility of some lawful permanent residents and naturalized US citizens’, according to a Reuters report. Meanwhile, Gap also required some employees to provide specific US immigration documents to confirm their eligibility to work in the US.

The DoJ said that Gap ‘over relied’ on the electronic program used for employment eligibility, which contributed to the discriminatory conduct toward its non-US citizen employees.

In Gap’s statement, the company said: “We no longer use the electronic program and we believe that we are in compliance with all federal requirements.”

A statement from the DoJ said: “35 years ago, Congress passed a law prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers because of their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, and from retaliating against them for asserting their rights.”

“The division continues to vigorously enforce the law – holding thousands of employers accountable for violations, collecting millions of dollars in civil penalties and back pay and obtaining relief for countless victims of discrimination. This settlement with Gap underscores the division’s work over the last 35 years to end unlawful employment discrimination,” the DoJ added.


Immigration and Nationality Act

Under the US Immigration and Nationality Act, employers are prohibited from unnecessarily reverifying a foreign national’s right to work, or specifying the types of documentation that a worker is allowed to show to prove their permission to work because of the worker’s US citizenship, immigration status or national origin. 

Consequently, even when an employer has a legal obligation to check that a worker is still eligible to work in the US, an employer must allow the worker to provide whichever acceptable documentation they choose to prove that right.

Over the past five years, the DoJ’s Immigrant and Employee Rights’ (IER) division has reached settlements with more than 100 companies over discrimination based on Immigration and Nationality Act violations.

The IER has also reportedly been working to educate the public about the law to prevent immigration status-related violations from occurring in the first place. The department claims to have carried out more than 600 presentations or webinars in the last five years and helped tens of thousands of foreign workers and US employers. can help with US employment-based visas

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