Miami, FL – A federal class-action lawsuit claiming that the consumer product giant Procter & Gamble discriminated against qualified immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when it refused to consider them for paid internships will move forward.
Last week’s ruling marks the second time a federal court has agreed that DACA recipients who are authorized to work in the United States can sue employers that only hire U.S. citizens and green card holders, and deny employment to other eligible individuals.
The lawsuit was filed last year by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Outten & Golden LLP on behalf of David Rodriguez, a former college student who is authorized to work in the United States under DACA.
Rodriguez, a 2017 graduate of Florida International University (FIU), applied for an internship with Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 2013 after attending an on-campus information session about the company’s internship program. The application required that he provide information related to his citizenship and immigration status.
After completing the form, Rodriguez was subsequently denied the internship and received confirmation from a P&G representative that he was rejected because of his immigration status. The complaint says that various P&G online job postings specifically warned under the “Qualifications” section that candidates “must be a U.S. citizen or national, refugee, asylee or lawful permanent resident.”
“Work-authorized DACA holders are valuable contributors to our economy,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “They should not have to face arbitrary and biased exclusions from employment, especially by large and sophisticated corporations like Procter & Gamble.”
In her ruling, Judge Kathleen M. Williams of United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied the company’s motion to dismiss, saying Rodriguez’s claims were “strikingly similar” to those in Juarez, et al. v. The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Inc., a 2014 class-action lawsuit also filed by MALDEF and Outten & Golden.
In that case, a New York federal court held that the plaintiff had a plausible claim of discrimination based on Northwestern Mutual’s policy requiring him to demonstrate that he had a “green card” because he was not a U.S. citizen. That requirement imposed an additional burden on him, in violation of federal civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination based on alienage.
Judge Williams cited that ruling in denying P&G’s motion. “And as the court acknowledged in Juarez,” she added in the decision, “even if Defendant has lawful business reasons to reject applications from DACA recipients, those reasons cannot be properly determined on a motion to dismiss.”
“This decision affirms that employers like Procter & Gamble must uphold their legal obligation to applicants not to discriminate based on citizenship or immigration status,” said co-counsel David López of Outten & Golden. “Work-authorized non-citizens should be entitled to the same consideration for a position as U.S. citizens when seeking employment.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the company’s hiring practices are unlawful, as well as back pay and damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.
The case is Rodriguez v. Procter & Gamble, Case No. 1:17-cv-22652 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.
Read the order denying the motion to dismiss here.