General Motors (GM) agreed to pay $365,000 to settle charges it discriminated against non-U.S. citizens by requiring prospective hires to provide unnecessary documents as part of its export compliance assessment.
The settlement, announced Tuesday by the Department of Justice (DOJ), mandates GM revise its employment policies, properly train personnel on the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and be subject to monitoring and reporting requirements.
The details: From at least July 2019 to May 2021, personnel at GM’s headquarters and at least one field office requested non-U.S. citizen new hires provide “an unexpired foreign passport as a condition of employment, imposing a discriminatory barrier on them in the hiring process,” the DOJ said.
At issue, in the agency’s view, was how GM improperly combined its process for verifying workers’ permission to work in the United States with its export compliance assessment.
Under export control laws and regulations, all U.S. persons working at U.S. companies can access export-controlled items without authorization from the U.S. government, the DOJ noted.
The agency defines “U.S. persons” as U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees.
Compliance ramifications: The DOJ issued an accompanying fact sheet to help companies avoid immigration-related discrimination when complying with U.S. export control laws.
The agency advised companies avoid combining export compliance assessments, which usually involve asking workers to present documentation proving their citizenship or immigration status, with the Form I-9 process.
“The Form I-9 process requires employers to review documentation to check if someone they’ve hired has permission to work in the United States. The Form I-9 process isn’t used to check proof of someone’s citizenship or immigration status,” the fact sheet stated.
Company response: “GM appreciates that the [DOJ] is acknowledging and addressing the longstanding need for guidance to help well-intentioned employers navigate the tension between export control obligations on the one hand and employment eligibility verification compliance obligations on the other hand,” a GM spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“We have fully cooperated throughout the investigation, which related to documentation collected during the onboarding process,” the statement read. “There was no formal determination that GM engaged in discrimination, and we make no admission of wrongdoing, but we welcome this resolution as an opportunity both to avoid litigation and to refine and clarify our internal administrative processes to further improve the employee experience.”