US: Justice Department proposes to expand employer liability for immigration-related discrimination claims

The Justice Department has proposed a regulation that seeks to enhance its ability to enforce federal immigration-related anti-discrimination laws, with significant potential impact to employers. If implemented, the rule would increase employers’ exposure to discrimination claims.

The rule would give the Justice Department up to five years from the time of an alleged violation to bring a complaint or conduct an investigation. Currently, it is limited to 180 or 210 days to bring a complaint or investigate one. The agency would have the authority to waive the 180-day time limit for an individual employee to file a discrimination charge against an employer. Furthermore, the proposed rule would give expanded investigative powers to the agency, both in terms of what information it could access and from whom it could obtain information.

Employers would be liable for discrimination if they treat employees differently based on immigration status, regardless of their reasons for the different treatment, and even where the employer does not take adverse action against those employees – provisions that appear inconsistent with federal employment discrimination statutes.

Next Steps for the Proposed Rule

The Justice Department regulation is on a fast track and requires public comment by September 14, 2016. If your organisation would like to submit feedback about the proposed rule, you can do this at the top of the appropriate Federal Register page.