The Justice Department announced this week that it has reached a settlement agreement with Denver, Colorado-based Navajo Express (CCJ Top 250, No. 114), resolving DOJ’s determination that Navajo Express violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against non-U.S. citizen workers when checking their permission to work in the United States.

Under the terms of the settlement, Navajo Express will pay more than $40,000 in civil penalties to the United States, train staff on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, review and revise its employment policies, and be subject to departmental monitoring for a two-year period.

Navajo said in a statement to CCJ that, “per the terms of the settlement agreement with the DOJ, Navajo has admitted no wrongdoing in connection with the DOJ’s investigation. Instead, Navajo settled with DOJ simply to avoid unnecessarily costly and prolonged litigation.”

Navajo noted that it is a family-owned business that has grown from 13 trucks when it was founded in 1981 to a leading refrigerated carrier in the U.S., adding that it takes issue with DOJ’s claims.

“The backbone of Navajo is its over the road drivers,” the company said. “It should therefore come as no surprise that Navajo takes issue with the gross mischaracterizations set forth by the DOJ in its Dec. 13, 2022, press release.” 

According to DOJ, the investigation into Navajo began when a non-U.S. citizen complained that the company refused to accept valid documentation proving his permission to work and demanded a different document from him.

The investigation found that Navajo “routinely required lawful permanent residents to show their permanent resident cards (known as green cards) to prove their permission to work, even when they had already presented other valid documentation,” DOJ said.

The investigation also found that Navajo had a policy of unlawfully requiring permanent residents to provide new permanent resident cards when their old permanent resident cards expired, even though such documentation is unnecessary, DOJ added.

Navajo said it “explicitly denies it had any policy of unlawfully requiring permanent residents to provide new permanent resident cards when their old permanent resident cards expired. Instead, the DOJ complaint alleged a single instance of a Navajo employee asking for a permanent resident’s green card – and while the DOJ found this single claim to have been substantiated, it tellingly found that no retaliation occurred in connection with the solitary incident.”

According to DOJ, federal law allows all workers to choose which valid, legally acceptable documentation to present to demonstrate their identity and permission to work, regardless of citizenship, immigration status or national origin. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from asking for specific documents because of a worker’s citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

Many non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, are eligible for several of the same types of documents to prove their permission to work as U.S. citizens, such as driver’s licenses and unrestricted Social Security cards. Employers must allow workers to present whatever acceptable documentation the workers choose and cannot reject valid documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine.

In addition, if a lawful permanent resident provides an unexpired permanent resident card to prove their permission to work, employers must not request new documentation if the permanent resident card later expires.

“When employers reject workers’ valid documentation proving their permission to work and demand other types of documentation, they construct unnecessary hurdles that can mean the difference between a worker getting a job or not,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold employers accountable for discriminating against workers because of citizenship, immigration status or national origin.”