Biden’s Department of Justice has slapped a whopping $700,000 fine on Covenant Transport Inc. and the affiliated Transport Management Services LLC, both stellar examples of Tennessee’s robust transportation sector.
The recent decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to impose a $700,000 fine on Covenant Transport Inc., a Christian trucking company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, raises significant concerns about the overreach of federal power and the disregard for the realities faced by businesses in regulating their workforce.
The DOJ, under Joe Biden’s regime, claims this measure is to resolve alleged violations of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by Covenant and its affiliated entity, Transport Management Services LLC.
The department accuses Covenant of discriminating against non-U.S. citizen workers by requiring specific documentation to confirm their legal status to work in the United States.
From the DOJ’s press release:
The Justice Department announced today that it has secured a $700,000 agreement with Covenant Transport Inc. (Covenant), as well as the affiliated entity Transport Management Services LLC (Transport), two transportation logistics and long-haul trucking companies headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The agreement resolves the department’s determination that the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by routinely discriminating against non-U.S. citizen workers when checking their permission to work in the United States.
“Employers cannot discriminate against non-U.S. citizens by demanding specific or unnecessary documents from them to prove their permission to work,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to ensuring compliance with our federal civil rights laws so that non-U.S. citizens with permission to work can contribute their talents to our workforce.”
The department’s investigation found that from January 2020 through at least August 2022, Covenant and Transport routinely discriminated against non-U.S. citizens by requiring lawful permanent residents to show their Permanent Resident Cards (known as green cards) and by requiring other non-U.S. citizens to show documents related to their immigration status.
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 status, immigration status or national origin. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from requiring specific or unnecessary documents because of a worker’s citizenship status, immigration status or national origin. Indeed, many non-U.S. citizens, including lawful permanent residents, are eligible for several of the same types of documents to prove their permission to work as U.S. citizens are (for example, a state ID or driver’s license and an unrestricted Social Security card). Employers must allow workers to present whatever acceptable documentation the workers choose and cannot reject valid documentation that reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the worker.
Under the terms of the agreement, Covenant and Transport will pay $700,000 in civil penalties to the United States, train their employees on the INA’s anti-discrimination requirements, revise their employment policies and be subject to monitoring by the department.
However, this overlooks the legitimate concerns and responsibilities of businesses to ensure their employees are legally permitted to work.
Generally, illegal immigrants are not eligible for work permits. However, there may be exceptions for certain groups, such as “refugees” or those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
“Asylum seekers” may be eligible for work permits after they have filed their application and received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
According to Gittes Law Group, “Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), it is illegal for employers to knowingly employ undocumented workers. When employees are hired, their employer is required to ask for documents. The documents must show their identity and authorization to work in the U.S. Those documents must “reasonably appear to be genuine.”
“Employers must terminate, or refuse to hire, an undocumented worker if they find the worker is unauthorized to work. But, the employer cannot use immigration status as an excuse to fire undocumented workers who make discrimination complaints. Undocumented workers are covered by federal discrimination laws. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who assert their legal rights. If an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising their right to file a discrimination complaint, the employer is breaking the law.”
According to the law group:
In the United States, an undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant is a foreign-born person who is not a permanent resident and is not a U.S. citizen. “Undocumented immigrant” may refer to a person whose immigration status is not resolved. Due to the unresolved status, the worker does not have permission to work in the United States.
These two terms are sometimes used to mean the same thing. An illegal immigrant/alien is foreign-born individual who has entered the U.S. illegally and can be deported. It may also refer to a person who entered the U.S. legally but who has lost their legal status and can be deported. An undocumented immigrant is a foreign-born person who does not possess a valid visa or other immigration documentation, because they entered the U.S. without inspection, stayed longer than their temporary visa permitted, or otherwise violated the terms under which they were admitted.
“Illegal immigrant/alien” is an offensive term to some people because it implies that the person is somehow “illegal.” While the person may be in the U.S. illegally, they are not “illegal,” only their status is. “Undocumented” better describes the situation of an immigrant who doesn’t currently have valid legal status in the U.S.
The DOJ’s action against the Christian trucking company is to penalize them for undertaking due diligence in ensuring its workforce complies with legal standards. This fine seems more like a punitive measure against a company striving to maintain legal integrity in its employment practices.