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Immigration Reform and Control Act: What You Should Know

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) Prohibits Employment Discrimination

What You Should Know:

Under IRCA, when hiring, discharging, or recruiting or referring for a fee, employers with four or more employees may not:

  • Discriminate because of national origin against U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and authorized aliens. (Employers of 15 or more employees should note that the ban on national origin discrimination against any individual under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues to apply.)
  • Discriminate because of citizenship status against U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and the following classes of aliens with work authorization: permanent residents, temporary residents (that is, individuals who have gone through the legalization program), refugees, and asylees.

Employers can demonstrate compliance with the law by following the verification (I-9 form) requirements and treating all new hires the same. This includes the following steps:

  • Establish a policy of hiring only individuals who are authorized to work. A "U.S. citizens only" policy in hiring is illegal. An employer may require U.S. citizenship for a particular job only if it is required by federal, state, or local law, or by government contract.
  • Complete the I-9 Form for all new hires. This form gives employers a way to establish that the individuals they hire are authorized to work in the United States.
  • Permit employees to present any document or combination of documents acceptable by law. Employers cannot prefer one document over others for purposes of completing the I-9 Form. Authorized aliens do not all carry the same documents. For example, not all aliens who are authorized to work are issued "green cards." As long as the documents are allowed by law and appear to be genuine on their face and to relate to the person, they should be accepted.

IRCA established the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices to enforce the IRCA antidiscrimination provision. Discrimination charges are filed with this Office. Charges or written inquiries should be sent to: The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices, P.O. Box 65490, Washington, DC 20035-5490. The Office can also be reached by calling 1-800-255-7688 (toll free) or 202-653-8121; 1-800-237-2515 or 202-296-0168 (TDD device for the hearing impaired). For questions about title VII, please contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-USA-EEOC (toll free) or 202-634-7057 TDD.