The U.S. Department of Justice announced it reached a settlement with an Alpharetta-based IT staffing company regarding an immigration-related discrimination claim.

According to a May 24 news release, Pyramid Consulting Inc. allegedly “discriminated against a new employee when it rejected his valid employment authorization documentation and requested an unnecessary extra document because he is an asylee, then fired him because he refused to comply with the company’s unlawful request.”

Under the settlement terms, Pyramid will pay a civil penalty to the United States of $5,204 and back pay of $13,920 to the worker, whose name is not being released by the federal government.

The company will also revise its policies and procedures, ensure relevant employees participate in training on the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring over the term of the agreement.

The act forbids employers from requesting more or different documents than necessary to establish eligibility to work based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

“Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their citizenship or immigration status by restricting the types of valid work authorization documents that employees can present, or by firing them for refusing to comply with illegal document requests,” Pamela S. Karlan, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in the release.

“We are pleased that Pyramid Consulting will compensate the charging party for lost wages and work with the Department of Justice to ensure that the company does not impose unlawful discriminatory barriers on employees when verifying their eligibility to work.”

The department’s investigation started after an asylee filed a discrimination complaint with the civil rights division against Pyramid. Based on its investigation, the department determined that during the process of verifying his employment eligibility through the Form I-9, Pyramid rejected the worker’s driver’s license and Social Security card, which are sufficient documentation for the Form I-9.

The department also found Pyramid requested he provide an Employment Authorization Document instead. After the worker refused, and even after he directed Pyramid to the relevant law prohibiting unfair documentary practices, the company fired him. Following the department’s initiation of its investigation, Pyramid rehired the worker, but only after he lost several weeks of pay.

In an emailed statement, Pyramid addressed the settlement agreement.

“In regard to the recent DOJ posting of May 25th, it is the opinion of Pyramid Consulting that the DOJ has incorrectly characterized the circumstances in its press release and erroneously concluded that Pyramid Consulting discriminated against a new employee,” the company stated. “Pyramid Consulting maintains that the company did not engage in intentional discrimination against the employee and would like to point out that DOJ has not substantiated this claim of discrimination. While DOJ claims that Pyramid Consulting rejected the employee’s valid employment authorization documentation and then fired him because he refused to comply with the company’s unlawful request, that is not accurate.

“Pyramid Consulting at no time intentionally discriminated against the employee and did not “fire” him. However, Pyramid Consulting does acknowledge that it did make an unintentional administrative error with respect to the processing of the employee’s paperwork for a job placement and therefore had already agreed to compensate him for lost wages prior to DOJ starting the investigation and several months before reaching the settlement with DOJ. The DOJ’s investigation ultimately only served to delay the payment of back pay to the employee. Given that Pyramid Consulting had already intended to compensate the employee, the company chose to settle the claim with the DOJ rather than incur the time and cost of litigation. This DOJ settlement in fact closes the inquiry.”

The DOJ’s civil rights division’s immigrant and employee rights section is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the act. The section has a worker hotline (1-800-255-7688) an employer hotline (1-800-255-8155, plus 1-800-237-2515 for the hearing impaired) and an email address (IER@usdoj.gov) for those who feel they have been discriminated against.

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