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UC San Diego Medical Center sued for hiring, employment practices

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued UC San Diego Medical Center for employment discrimination against noncitizens legally entitled to work in the U.S. The court action was based on a complaint by an employee who is not a U.S. citizen, but possesses a green card, signifying permanent residency status entitling the individual to work in the U.S.

According to the lawsuit, the woman said that UCSD threatened her in December of 2010 stating that she would be terminated if she didn't show the employer proof of her legal right to work, despite the fact that she had already provided UCSD with the documentation when she was initially hired.

The lawsuit alleges that noncitizens working at UCSD were required to show different documents compared to employees who were U.S. citizens to prove their identities and legal right to work. However, federal law requires that employers impose the same documentation requirements on citizens and noncitizens.

Additionally, under federal law, the applicant or employee can make the decision as to which specific documents to show to the employer to establish their identity and right to work. The lawsuit asserts that the medical center in San Diego required 500 applicants and employees who were not citizens over a five-year period to show a green card, accepting no other documents, while not asking workers who were citizens for any specific documents in particular.

Federal law allows employees to show their identity and legal status with one document if they choose, such as a U.S. passport or a green card. They can also use two documents, such as a driver's license to prove identity, and a Social Security card to show eligibility to work.

The medical center is further accused of asking hired noncitizens to submit renewed verification of their legal status after working for a period of time.

UCSD was contacted by the Justice Department in January regarding its hiring and employment practices. The medical center has since participated in training to learn more about the proper process for hiring and employing immigrant workers. After learning about the lawsuit, a spokesperson for UCSD said that the medical center believes that it has since complied with the law.

Source: Sign on San Diego, "Feds sue UCSD over immigrant hiring practices," Janet Lavelle, Dec. 6, 2011