A Texas concrete contractor has agreed to pay the federal government $115,000 to settle charges that it violated documentation provisions of federal immigration law, the Dept. of Justice has said.

DOJ, which announced the agreement on April 17, said its investigation showed that Dallas-based Potter Concrete Ltd. made “unlawful demands” of new hires who were not U.S. citizens.

Justice said that the company required newly hired non-U.S. citizens to submit specific Dept. of Homeland Security-issued documents, but it allowed U.S.-citizen new hires to provide “their choice of documentation.”

DOJ also contends that Potter Concrete “selectively utilized” the E-Verify electronic system to confirm eligibility for employment for applicants the company “knew or believed” were non-U.S. citizens or foreign-born.

Attorney Richard A. Gump, Jr., whose Dallas firm represents Potter Concrete on immigration issues, told ENR that "there were some innocent verification mistakes made" concerning the federal I-9 form, which is used to verify an individual's identity and employment status, as well as in entering data in the E-Verify system.

Gump adds that the errors "were frankly made more in haste and getting people through the process as opposed to any type of discrimination."

The agreement states that it is neither an admission by Potter Concrete of violating federal immigration law nor an admission by the U.S. of the merits of the company’s defenses.

Gump says Potter Concrete entered into the agreement with DOJ "basically to avoid having to litigate over the issue of purpose or intent to discriminate."

In 1996, federal immigration law was amended to say that the government had to show that a company's document-related practice was "made for the purpose or with the intent of discriminating against an individual" in order for it to be classified as an unfair employment practice.

Gump says no job candidate "was turned away." He adds, "Were there circumstances where, to assist with the on-boarding they would require or suggest...different documents? Yes, that was going on."

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) bars companies from setting additional documentation requirements on employees during their hiring and eligibility-verification based on citizenship status or national origin.

Besides the penalty, Potter Concrete is to have training on the immigration statute’s anti-discrimination provision, change its eligibility-verification process for employment and be subject to monitoring of those procedures for one year.

Gump says, "The company has taken any and all corrective actions that need to be taken to make sure the innocent mistakes are not made in the future. And they really do take the immigration and discrimination laws very seriously and try to do things right."

He says, "We feel like everything is going to be in good order now."

Two officials of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices handled the Potter matter. That office enforces the INA anti-discrimination provision.

Story updated 4:05 pm April 22 to include comments from Potter Concrete attorney