Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they have reached a settlement with Rosemead-based Panda Restaurant Group, resolving claims that the parent company of the Panda Express chain discriminated against non-U.S. citizens when re-verifying their permission to work.
Under the settlement, Panda Restaurant Group — which has more than 1,800 Panda Express locations in the United States — will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the U.S. government, establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices, train its human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements, according to prosecutors.
The U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded that the company unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, while not making similar requests to U.S. citizen workers when their documents expired.
A company representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
The investigation also revealed that the company routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to re-verify their ongoing work authorization despite evidence they had already provided sufficient documentation, according to the DOJ.
The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.
“Employers should ensure that their re-verification practices comply with laws that protect workers against discrimination,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department applauds Panda Express for its cooperation during this investigation and its commitment to compensating workers who may have lost wages due to its documentary practices.”
Work-authorized, non-U.S. citizens who lost work at Panda Express between May 31, 2014, and Wednesday due to Panda Express’ re-verification practices may be eligible for back pay for the wages they would have earned. For more information, email IER.PEclaims@usdoj.gov.