Las Vegas Casino Sued by DOJ for Screening Workers

The federal employment verification (I-9) program demands that employers check to ensure that workers are authorized in the US. The program requires employers to check employment authorization and to keep records available for immigration authorities to confirm that the checks have taken place. However, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department in Nevada has penalized some companies for participating in the I-9 program too intently. The lawsuit which has resulted has stirred some controversy about the exact reason for the lawsuit. The legal action may also confuse companies who hope to follow the sometimes complex rules regarding both the I-9 program and anti-discrimination laws.

The Justice Department in that state filed a civil lawsuit against a Las Vegas casino, alleging that the Tuscany Hotel and Casino was discriminatory in the way it conducted its “employment eligibility verification and re-verification process.” The lawsuit may cause some confusion among companies trying to obey both the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and immigration laws. Immigration laws require employers to verify an employee’s authorization to work in the US and hold the employer liable if the company hires undocumented workers. The penalties from the USCIS and government can be severe in these cases, even if employers were genuinely duped by fake documentation. At the same time, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates that all authorized employees be treated equally during the hiring, employment authorization verification, and firing processes, without discrimination based on nationality or citizenship.

According to the Department of Justice, the Tuscany Hotel and Casino is accused of treating US citizens and non-citizens during the employment authorization verification and re-verification procedure. According to the lawsuit, the casino asked non-citizens to provide different or more documents and information during the process. The casino allegedly also asked non-citizens for specific documents during the re-verification process. The lawsuit also claims that the casino took note of the expiry date of green cards and asked green card holders to re-verify their status, even though this was not necessary.

Some allege that the lawsuit is retaliation against the casino, however, since the casino recently hosted a special event for the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a law enforcement group that was opposed to the Obama administration. The group and the speakers the group hired at the casino are not popular with the Department of Justice or with the current administration.

A representative for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated that casinos may require more security because of the money involved in the businesses and most casinos have complex loss prevention programs and internal check programs. The overzealous immigration status verification program may have been a part of this strict security check. The ICE member asked to remain unnamed when speaking with the media and told a newspaper that the Department of Justice has its own agenda, which does not necessarily protect Americans.

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, however, told newspapers that upholding anti-discrimination laws is crucial in the workplace. Perez filed a complaint against the casino before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief.