Panda Express settles discrimination case

Panda Express settles discrimination case

Panda Express is paying $600,000 to settle a federal anti-immigrant discrimination claim.

Panda Express, the quick-service chain specializing in Chinese food, has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a claim that it discriminated against workers who weren't American citizens.

The chain required its employees who were legal permanent residents of the U.S. to reestablish their work authorization when their documents expired even though they didn't ask the same of their staffers who are citizens, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The business also required non-citizens to show their immigration documents to verify again that they could work even though they'd already done so previously.

Panda Express will pay a $400,000 fine and create a $200,000 fund to provide back pay to affected workers. The company said it never intended to discriminate.

"While we continue to believe that we did not discriminate, either in intent or in practice, we settled this matter with the Department of Justice in order to focus our time and resources on our commitment to supporting our associates," said spokesman Thien Ho. "Even before this settlement, we had put in place additional systems and training to address our employee authorization verification processes."

Under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, employers aren't allowed to ask for workers for these kinds of documents when it's based on their citizenship status or national origin.

The Rosemead, Calif.-based chain, which was founded in 1983 in Glendale, Calif., says it now has more than 1,900 stores with 30,000 workers.

The settlement also requires Panda Express to instruct its human resources department about the federal laws that ban bias against immigrants and submit to the Justice Department's monitoring and reporting rules. The case applies to employees hired since May 31, 2014. They can find out if they're eligible to reclaim lost wages by emailing [email protected]

“Employers should ensure that their re-verification practices comply with laws that protect workers against discrimination,” said Tom Wheeler, acting assistant attorney general 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.”



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