I-9: Background Information

Employment Eligibility Verification and Antidiscrimination Protections

In 1986, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  IRCA made it unlawful for an employer in the United States to knowingly hire a worker who is not authorized to work in the U.S.  The 1986 law established a procedure that employers must follow to verify that employees are authorized to work in the U.S.  The federal government created Form I-9, the employment eligibility verification form, which employers must complete for all new employees.

Because of concerns that the I-9 employment eligibility verification process could result in discrimination against workers, Congress also included antidiscrimination provisions within IRCA.  Under IRCA, individuals who are authorized to work in the U.S. are protected from discrimination based on citizenship/immigration status, national origin, as well as certain practices called “document abuse.”  Document abuse occurs when an employer requires a worker to present specific documents to verify his/her employment eligibility (rather than allowing the worker to choose which of the acceptable documents he or she will present, as long as s/he fulfills the documentation requirement) or more documents than are legally required by the I-9 process.

To enforce these antidiscrimination protections, Congress created the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC).  A part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the OSC has multilingual staff and attorneys ready to assist workers, their unions, or other advocates for employees, along with employers and the general public on matters involving employment discrimination.  The OSC is not part of the Department of Homeland Security.

For information or assistance in filing a charge of discrimination, workers may contact OSC ‘s toll-free hotline at (800) 255-7688 or (800) 237-2515 (TDD for hearing impaired).

There is also an automated hotline for employers at (800) 255-8155 or (800) 362-2735 (TDD).

For more information, please visit the OSC‘s website.