The Justice Department recently announced agreements with 121 podiatry residency programs and the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) to resolve claims that they discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The department's investigations found that between 2013 and 2015, the programs and AACPM created and published discriminatory postings for podiatry residents through AACPM's online podiatry residency application and matching service. Specifically, the department determined that hundreds of job postings limited podiatry residency positions to U.S. citizens even though there was no legal authorization for the citizenship requirement. Several work-authorized non-U.S. citizens stated that they were discouraged or deterred from applying to residency programs because of the citizenship requirements, and the department concluded that two lawful permanent residents were denied consideration for positions because of unlawful citizenship requirements.
Under the settlement agreements, the programs are required to remove citizenship requirements from podiatry residency postings except where required by law, train staff involved in the advertising and hiring of podiatric residents and ensure that future residency postings are reviewed by staff trained in equal employment opportunity laws or by legal counsel. Some of the settlements also require the programs to pay a civil penalty, amounting to total civil penalties from the programs of $141,500.
The settlement with AACPM requires it to pay $65,000 in civil penalties, train its staff on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and ensure that all participating programs receive such training before they may use AACPM's online system to advertise residency positions. The settlement also requires AACPM to refund the fees that the charging party paid to use AACPM's residency application and matching system.
“Immigrants authorized to work in our country should never face unlawful discriminatory barriers to employment,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “Across the industry, these settlements will ensure that qualified medical students have equal opportunities to join podiatric residency programs and provide healthcare services to our communities.”
The INA's anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from discriminating in hiring, firing and recruiting or referring for a fee based on a person's citizenship, immigration status or national origin. Employers may not limit job opportunities to U.S. citizens unless employers have a legal basis to do so, such as a law, regulation or government contract that imposes citizenship requirements on the position. Similarly, recruiters and referrers for a fee may not impose barriers to obtaining employment based on an individual's citizenship, immigration status or national origin. This means, for instance, that unless a legal exception applies, they may not advertise jobs as available only to U.S. citizens because doing so excludes other work-authorized individuals, such as U.S. nationals, lawful permanent residents (often referred to as green card holders), asylees and refugees.
The department began its investigations of the programs and AACPM in 2015 after receiving a charge against AACPM from a podiatry medical student with lawful permanent residence. The charge alleged that AACPM published a series of podiatry residency job announcements that unlawfully restricted positions to U.S. citizens through AACPM's online application service. The charge further claimed that AACPM used its online service to collect citizenship status information from residency applicants and share that information with residency programs.