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Feds settle case with Tigard senior-care provider


Company faces penalties after refusing to hire woman unless she showed alien card

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Marissa Phillips, director of operations at ComForcare Senior Services, checks on the progress of her client, Blanche Wirrick of Sherwood, who had a stroke on April 11. Gail Sanchez offers care to Wirrick in her home.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that it reached an agreement with a Tigard elder-care company that it said discriminated against a potential employee.

Tigard ComForcare Senior Services, on Southwest McDonald Street, reportedly demanded unnecessary paperwork from a woman who applied for a job, then refused to hire her when she did not produce it.

According to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, an unnamed woman applied for a job at the Tigard ComForcare franchise, which opened its doors in March and provides daily-living needs for seniors living in their homes.

The company offers an alternative to live-in senior care facilities, providing meal preparation, transportation, grooming, light housekeeping and companionship to seniors throughout the Portland-area.

Read a story we wrote about ComForcare here

The woman recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but the company received faulty data from a check with E-Verify, an Internet-based employment eligibility system run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Known as a “tentative non-confirmation,” E-Verify required that ComForcare notify the woman and offer her the opportunity to contest the findings.

If the woman wanted to contest the mismatch, according to the DOJ, she must be allowed to work while resolving the issues, and the employer cannot request additional documentation from her.

Instead, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement that ComForcare failed to inform the woman about the results and refused to hire her unless she produced an “alien card” to prove her citizenship.

The woman informed the company that, as a citizen, she did not possess such a card. The DOJ claimed at that point ComForcare officials demanded to see her naturalization papers.

According to the DOJ, ComForcare has requested all non-U.S. citizens — including people perceived as non-citizens — to produce specific employment eligibility documents, rather than allow individuals to show their choice of documentation, as required by law.

In a settlement reached with ComForcare, the company agreed to pay about $525 in back pay to the woman and $1,210 in penalties to the U.S. government.

ComForcare said it would be training its human resources staff to avoid such discrimination in employee eligibility in the future.

The company will be under Department of Justice supervision for the next year-and-a-half.

“This case illustrates the importance of following E-Verify rules consistently regardless of citizenship status or perceived status, or risk running afoul of the anti-discrimination provision,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division. “Subjecting naturalized citizens to heightened documentary standards that result in the loss of employment constitutes discrimination, and the division is fully committed to enforcing the law that prohibits it.”