The D’Amico & Sons on Hennepin is facing accusations that it discriminated against more than a dozen immigrant workers.
The restaurant reportedly fired 15 Hispanic immigrant workers March 31 who could not verify their citizenship.
Fourteen of the 15 fired workers have joined to file charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), according to an e-mail from Veronica Mendez, who is representing the former employees through the Workers Interfaith Network.
The EEOC complaint is a predicate to filing a federal lawsuit, said Dan Palmquist, a William Mitchell College of Law professor who also represents D’Amico’s.
D’Amico’s argues it must follow federal guidelines by following up on “no-match letters” sent to the business by the Social Security Administration (SSA), Palmquist said. Those letters state, in brief, that there was a discrepancy with what the SSA had on file for the employees and what documentation was provided. Discrepancies could include not only a missing Social Security number, but also other data errors, said Amy Rotenberg, a D’Amico’s spokesperson.
Mendez argues that all of the fired workers have provided adequate documentation proving their citizenship. Many of the fired workers have worked for D’Amico’s, 2210 Hennepin Ave. S., for many years, she said.
“Social Security Administration’s database is fatally flawed,” Mendez said. “Under law, they should not have to again provide [SS information].”
In a prepared statement, Mendez said that no-match letters “explicitly tell employers that the letters are not evidence that workers are undocumented,” and that no action should be taken against them.
Palmquist said, however, that D’Amico’s can take action, or face penalties.
If D’Amico’s knowingly employed “unauthorized workers” they face penalties of $250 to $10,000 per employee, Palmquist said.
Palmquist said he is confident the EEOC will find that the firings were not racially motivated.
Mendez said D’Amico’s actions “created a climate of fear” and that they “recklessly disregarded how this baseless and sudden action would disrupt the lives of these individuals, their families and the broader economy.”
Meanwhile, Rotenberg said D’Amico’s gave employees seven-months begin the process of resolving the identity discrepancy with the Social Security Administration. (Note: This story has been revised since the first version posted April 1 to correct information in this graph attributed to Rotenberg).