immigration documentation

Navigating Immigration Compliance: The Case of Fleming's Steakhouse and Lawful Permanent Residents

In a recent incident that underscores the critical importance of compliance with immigration laws in the workplace, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Sandestin, Florida, encountered legal challenges over allegations of immigration status discrimination. This situation, detailed by Micah Danney of Law360 on December 7, 2023, offers a pivotal learning opportunity for employers and immigration attorneys on adhering to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) regarding employee documentation.

The case began when Fleming's allegedly wrongfully terminated an employee, refusing to accept valid documentation of his status as a lawful permanent resident. This action prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice's Immigrant and Employee Rights Section. The steakhouse, owned and operated by OSI/Fleming's LLC, was found to have violated the INA by demanding specific documents beyond what the law requires, leading to accusations of discrimination based on immigration status.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division emphasized that employers engaging in such discriminatory practices by rejecting valid documents or demanding unnecessary additional documents violate federal law. The investigation revealed that Fleming's required the worker to provide a document with an expiration date, disregarding the initially provided valid documents. This practice contravenes the INA's stipulation that employees are free to choose which valid documents to present and that employers are prohibited from dictating the types of documentation they prefer.

To resolve these allegations, Fleming's agreed to pay a civil penalty of over $7,000, in addition to nearly $7,700 in back wages to the rehired worker. The settlement also mandates the steakhouse to align its hiring and firing practices with federal guidelines. It has two months to train its staff to comply with these legal requirements and must provide alternative means for accepting a worker's documentation if its software fails to recognize valid documents.

This case highlights the complexities and pitfalls that employers may face in navigating immigration-related employment laws. It serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and adhering to the INA's provisions regarding employee documentation. For immigration attorneys, especially those advising employers, this case offers a practical example of the consequences of non-compliance and the need for proactive legal guidance in employment practices.

Employers must ensure that their HR departments and hiring managers are well-versed in the legal requirements for verifying employees' eligibility to work in the United States. This includes understanding the types of documents that can legally be accepted and avoiding discriminatory practices that could lead to similar legal challenges.

In conclusion, the Fleming's Steakhouse case is a significant reminder for businesses to ensure strict adherence to immigration laws and regulations. As immigration attorneys and HR professionals navigate these legal waters, staying informed and vigilant about compliance is crucial to avoid costly legal repercussions.


"Fla. Restaurant To Pay $7K To End Immigration Bias Claims" by Micah Danney, Law360, December 7, 2023.

SEO Keywords:

Immigration Compliance,  Lawful Permanent Residents,  Employment Documentation, I mmigration and Nationality Act,  Workplace Discrimination,  Employee Rights,  Legal Settlements in Immigration,  Human Resources Immigration Law,  Fleming's Steakhouse Case,  DOJ Immigration Enforcement.