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Panda Express to pay $600K after national origin discrimination

The Chinese restaurant chain Panda Express has just settled with the U.S. Department of Justice in a nationwide discrimination claim. According to a spokesperson for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the company engaged in employment practices that put resident immigrants with work permits at a disadvantage.

The company still believes it did not discriminate, according to a Panda Express spokesperson, but it sees the value in putting in place additional training and systems to address the concern.

What Panda Express was doing, apparently, was subjecting lawful immigrant workers to an annoying and burdensome regime of periodically re-verifying their employment eligibility. This may have been meant to find individuals whose work visas had expired, but its overall effect was to require a great deal more paperwork from immigrant workers than from U.S. citizens.

"Employers should ensure that their reverification practices comply with laws that protect workers against discrimination," said the Civil Rights Division spokesperson.

Multiple federal laws prohibit discrimination against lawful immigrant workers

In this case, the primary law in question is the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which forbids discrimination of any kind, as well as retaliation and even unfair documentary practices that burden non-citizens working legally in the United States. It also forbids discrimination against U.S. citizens in competition with foreign workers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination based on national origin, which includes discrimination or retaliation against immigrants who have authorization to work in the U.S.

Per the settlement, Panda Express will provide $200,000 in back pay to compensate non-citizens who lost work at the restaurants between May 31, 2014, and June 28, 2017 due to the issue. It will also pay a $400,000 civil penalty and submit to a training and monitoring program. It must train its human resources staff on the function of the Immigration and Naturalization Act and will be subject to reporting requirements and Department of Justice monitoring.

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