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WASHINGTON — A Seattle-based international sandwich supplier has reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over the company’s alleged practice of requiring specific forms of identification from job seekers who are not American citizens.

SK Food Group will pay $40,500 in civil penalties to end the 11-month investigation by the Justice Department’s Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.

SK Food, which produces burgers, subs and sandwiches for wholesale customers, was accused of discriminating against job applicants based on their citizenship status or national origin.

The Justice Department said the company asked noncitizens for permanent-resident “green” cards, temporary resident cards and other “List A” documents deemed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as proving both identity and authorization to work.

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The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits employers from asking for different forms of proof based on nationality or citizenship. What’s more, employers cannot dictate the specific combination of acceptable documents. In lieu of a U.S. passport, for instance, a job applicant can choose to provide a driver’s license to establish identity
along with an unrestricted Social Security card to show authorization for employment

It’s illegal for companies to knowingly hire workers who are not authorized to work in the United States.

The complaint against SK Food was referred to the Justice Department by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As part of the settlement, the company agreed to contact applicants who were passed over for jobs since July 2012 and offer up to three days’ pay for lost employment for failure to provide specified documents. It also agreed to avoid discrimination by honoring documentation that “reasonably appears to be genuine.”

Steve Sposari, SK Food’s president and chief executive, said in an emailed statement the company resolved its issue with the government and “agreed it would continue to implement and enforce its existing policies and insure that the individuals responsible for carrying out SK’s existing policies were properly trained.”

SK Food is based in Seattle and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Premium Brands Holding, a $1 billion specialty-foods company based in Richmond, B.C. SK Food operates a 150,000-square-foot facility in Reno, Nev., that produces sandwiches and hoagies under the Oven Pride Kitchen brand as well as private-label wraps, panini and entrees.

Josh Stehlik, employment attorney with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants, said workers who look Latino — American citizens as well as noncitizens — are sometimes asked for extra documentation.

Such requests, Stehlik said, can create additional hurdles for employment,

“That’s exactly the discriminatory scenario the statute was designed to protect against,” he said.

Kyung Song: 202-383-6108 or Twitter: @KyungMSong

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