Maryland Assisted Living Facility Investigated for Employment Discrimination Based on Single Complaint

The Justice Department announced today that it secured a settlement agreement with Sunrise Senior Living Management Inc. (Sunrise Senior Living), which operates the Sunrise at Fox Hill location in Bethesda, Maryland. The agreement resolves the department’s determination that Sunrise Senior Living violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against a worker granted asylum when checking whether she had ongoing permission to work.

“The Justice Department will continue to hold employers accountable for unlawfully discriminating against workers because of citizenship, immigration status or national origin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Employers that discriminate against workers by rejecting their valid documents or requiring that they show unnecessary documents to prove they can continue to work violate federal law.”

After opening an investigation based on a worker’s complaint, the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) concluded that Sunrise Senior Living discriminated against a worker granted asylum by rejecting the valid document she provided and unnecessarily demanding a different immigration document to prove she could continue to work in the United States. When she failed to provide that, Sunrise Senior Living placed her on indefinite unpaid administrative leave, according to IER. Federal law allows workers to choose which legally acceptable documentation to provide that verifies their identity and permission to work, regardless of citizenship, immigration status or national origin. Employers cannot demand more documents than are necessary or specify documentation they prefer to see as part of this process.

Under the agreement, Sunrise Senior Living will pay a civil penalty to the United States, train its human resources staff on the INA’s requirements and be subject to department monitoring. Sunrise Senior Living previously removed the worker from indefinite unpaid leave and paid her lost wages, after the worker called IER’s worker hotline and requested assistance in addressing the situation. Each year, IER assists hundreds of workers whose employers are preventing them from working due to unnecessary document demands or rejections of valid work documentation.