International Law Firm Settles with the DOJ for Citizenship Hiring Discrimination

On August 29, 2018, the Justice Department announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Clifford Chance US LLP, a large international law firm.  The Department determined that the firm had engaged in hiring discrimination by refusing to consider employment-authorized non-US citizens and dual citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Clifford Chance had terminated or removed work-authorized non-US citizens and dual US citizens, based on their citizenship status, from a project based on the law firm’s misunderstanding of the requirements of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The ITAR controls specific export and import of defense-related articles and services, and absent authorization in the form of a license, limits access to certain sensitive information to US citizens, US nationals, lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees.  However, the ITAR thus does not authorize or require employers to hire only US citizens. Therefore, an employer’s restricting its hiring to US citizens without a proper legal basis may violate the INA’s unfair immigration-related employment practices provisions of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b, which prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.

Under the settlement, Clifford Chance will offer to pay back wages to three individuals who were removed from the project, pay a $132,000 civil penalty to the US, train certain employees about the requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b, inform clients who request citizenship status restrictions for staff of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b’s requirements, and be subject to 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. More information on how employers can avoid unlawful citizenship status discrimination is available at the Divisions’s website. Also, the IER’s worker hotline is 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired) and employer hotline is 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired).  In addition, one can also sign up for a free webinar at sends e-mail); or visit IER’s website.   Finally, more information on the ITAR is available here.