By Nathalie Voit


Tech giant Microsoft was found guilty of discriminating against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status by the Justice Department in a settlement agreement reached with Microsoft on Dec. 7. 


The DOJ said the multinational tech corporation repeatedly asked non-U.S. citizens during the early stages of its hiring process to provide “unnecessary and specific immigration documents” to prove they could work for the company without requiring its sponsorship for work visas. The settlement also maintains that the company discriminated against lawful permanent residents, including refugees and asylees, by asking for “more or different documents” than legally mandated.


According to the department, none of the applicants required sponsorship to work in the U.S. Yet, at least six lawful permanent residents were asked to show a Permanent Resident Card to prove they had permission to work without employer sponsorship during the visa evaluation process, the lawsuit maintained. 


Additionally, the investigation discovered that from at least June 2019 until January 2020, Microsoft routinely sent emails to lawful permanent residents requesting documents to confirm their continued work authorization, despite those workers having already provided proof of their permanent work authorization. 


The DOJ said that Microsoft’s repeated demands to verify or reverify applicants’ hiring documents are in direct violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA requires employers to verify a worker’s permission to work in the U.S. Still, it prohibits companies from soliciting documents when it’s not required or from limiting or specifying the types of valid documentation a worker is allowed to show because of his citizenship, immigration status, or national origin.


As such, the company must pay $17,532 in civil penalties and will be required to train its employees to ensure they abide by federal hiring guidelines as per the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The company will also be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. 


Under the settlement, Microsoft will also overhaul part of its hiring process “to ensure the company is not unlawfully requiring non-U.S. citizen job applicants, including those with permanent authorization to work, to provide specific immigration documents to prove they do not require sponsorship for a work visa.” 


Additionally, the company must stop sending emails requesting documents to reverify work authorization to workers who have already submitted proof. Finally, the settlement dictates Microsoft must allow workers who need to show their continued work authorization to supply their choice of acceptable documentation.


“The Department of Justice will continue, through investigations and settlements such as this one, to ensure that all non-U.S. citizens who are authorized to work can pursue job opportunities without facing unlawful discrimination,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department also hopes that this settlement will inspire other employers to ensure that their own policies and practices are not discriminatory.”