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Freight transport company’s driver’s license rule discriminates against foreign-born applicants, lawsuit alleges

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Dive Brief:

  • A freight transportation company’s policy requiring, as a precondition of employment, that applicants have a state-issued U.S. driver’s license for at least 12 months, allegedly discriminates on the basis of national origin and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a rejected job seeker claimed in an April 25 lawsuit.
  • The applicant, a U.S. resident born in Afghanistan, is authorized to work in the U.S., according to the complaint in Hamdard v. Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC. At the time he applied to Swift Transportation, he had an Oregon driver’s license for 10 months, an international driver’s license, three years’ driving experience in Afghanistan and a U.S. commercial driver’s license, the complaint said.
  • After he applied, he spoke with a Swift employee and a company recruiter. Both allegedly told him that Swift’s policy prohibited him from being hired because he didn’t meet the driver’s license requirement, according to the complaint. He later filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that the driver’s license requirement has a disparate impact on applicants who are not born in the U.S. 

Dive Insight:

Knight Swift Transportation Holdings, Swift’s parent company, did not respond to a request for a comment prior to press time.

Hiring practices related to non-U.S. citizens are generally governed by three federal laws: Title VII, the Immigration and Nationality Act (governing work visas) and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (verification of employment eligibility).

Title VII and IRCA prohibit employers from discriminating against a job applicant on the basis of national origin and often involve overlapping aspects of the hiring process.

For example, last year, manufacturing staffing company ResourceMFG agreed to pay $75,000 to settle allegations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it violated Title VII by refusing to hire a naturalized U.S. citizen because she was born in Germany.

According to the EEOC, the applicant completed paperwork for a job with a government contractor that required employees to be U.S. citizens but not that they be born in the U.S. Even so, ResourceMFG’s recruiter allegedly required the applicant to produce a U.S. birth certificate, halting the process when the applicant said she didn’t have one, but could produce documents showing she was a U.S. citizen.

Properly verifying eligibility to work in the U.S. also raises compliance issues under the IRCA, which prohibits employers from refusing to accept permissible documents or requiring more documents than necessary to prove employment eligibility, the EEOC has previously reminded employers.

Relevant here, Title VII also makes it illegal for employers to use facially neutral selection criteria (standards that apply to everyone, regardless of their national origin) if such criteria have a negative impact on people of a certain national origin and are not job-related or necessary to business operations, an EEOC guidance states.

In this case, the applicant alleged the Swift recruiter told him that except for not meeting the driver’s license requirement, he was “exactly what they need,” according to the complaint. Yet, that requirement allegedly enables the company to refuse to hire otherwise qualified, foreign-born drivers and is not consistent with business necessity, the complaint asserts.

Even if the requirement were consistent with business necessity, “less discriminatory alternatives exist that would equally serve any legitimate purpose,” the lawsuit alleged. “For instance, if the concern were whether the applicant has sufficient driving experience, Swift could count the driver’s period of international driver’s licensure toward the 12 month requirement,” the lawsuit said. 

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