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Microsoft signs settlement with US Justice Dept over 'immigration-related discrimination' claims

Must revise visa evaluation process

Microsoft has settled with the US Justice Department over immigration-related discrimination claims.

At the heart of the investigation were allegations that the Windows giant discriminated against non-US citizens based on their citizenship status as well as against lawful permanent residents.

The problem was the level of documentation the DoJ alleged had been asked for by Microsoft. In this case, it was more documentation than was legally required to show sponsorship for work visas were not needed, as well as repeatedly demanding evidence to reverify the continuing permission of employees to work in the US.

While the US's Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that employers verify a worker's permission to work in the US, it also prohibits those same employers asking for documents when not required or specifying the types of valid documentation to be shown "because of a worker's citizenship, immigration status, or national origin."

The DoJ said that a call had been made to the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) hotline complaining about Microsoft's demand to see a Permanent Resident Card during a job application at Redmond.

An investigation was kicked off and found "evidence that the company repeatedly asked lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees to undergo an evaluation of their need for Microsoft to sponsor them for an employment-based visa even though they do not require sponsorship to work in the United States."

The DoJ said the investigation had "determined that the company discriminated against at least six lawful permanent residents based on their immigration status during this visa evaluation process, by asking them to show a Permanent Resident Card to prove they had permission to work without employer sponsorship."

It added:

The investigation also determined that from at least June 2019 until at least January 2020, Microsoft routinely sent emails to lawful permanent residents asking them for documents to confirm their continued work authorization even though they had already provided documents showing permanent work authorization.

Unsurprisingly, the settlement requires Microsoft to overhaul its hiring processes and internal procedures. It must also stop specifying the type of documentation to be shown by employees in order to continue working. The multi-trillion dollar company will additionally have to pay $17,532 to the US Treasury in the form of a civil penalty and "not intimidate, threaten, coerce, or retaliate against any person for participating in the IER Investigation."

It's all a bit awkward for Microsoft. After all, the company memorably signed up to a lawsuit aimed at seeking an injunction against the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (which intended to stop children that entered the US illegally being booted out by officials.)

Microsoft has since been broadly supportive, urging strong protections as recently as last month, and pointed out that it employs 81 DACA recipients.

Discovering that its own employment processes need a bit of an overhaul in the "papers, please" department, while resolved, is not a great look.

A Microsoft spokesperson told The Reg: "We hire and confirm employment eligibility for tens of thousands of people, and a handful were mistakenly asked for extra information or documentation. We appreciate we need to prevent these mistakes and have worked to address these issues and improve our internal processes as part of our commitment to compliance." ®

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