The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Farmland Foods Inc., a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc. and a major producer of U.S. pork products. The lawsuit alleges that Farmland Foods engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by imposing unnecessary documentary requirements on non-United States citizens when establishing their authority to work in the United States.

The department’s investigation revealed that Farmland required all newly hired non-United States citizens and some foreign-born United States citizens at its Monmouth plant in Illinois to present specific and, in some cases, extra work authorization documents beyond those required by federal law.  

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to treat all authorized workers in the same manner during the hiring process, regardless of their citizenship status.  Farmland imposed different and greater requirements on non-United States citizens and foreign-born United States citizens as compared to applicants who were native-born United States citizens.

“Employers may not treat authorized workers differently during the hiring process based on their citizenship status,” said Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division.  “Federal law prohibits discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process, and the Justice Department is committed to enforcing the law.”

The lawsuit charging Farmland with discriminatory practices has been filed before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) within the Executive Office for Immigration Review, another component of the Department of Justice.