LOS ANGELES – A digital services firm based in Silicon Valley illegally denied a paid internship to a qualified applicant based on her immigration status, according to a letter sent to California state labor officials today.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) sent the letter on behalf of Sandy Vasquez, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), whose application was rejected in January by VMWare, Inc., a cloud computing and digital workspace technology provider based in Palo Alto. According to Vasquez, a VMWare recruiter said the company accepts employment applications only from U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents after Vasquez informed the recruiter that she is a DACA holder.

“California public policy is clear that discrimination against a work-authorized immigrant is unlawful,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Moreover, in a full-employment economy, refusing to consider a well-educated potential employee on such an irrational basis calls into serious question the management skills of the potential employer.”

Under a California law, notification letters spelling out specific violations of the state labor code must be sent to both the employer and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) as a precursor to a lawsuit. The letter sent today serves as notice of MALDEF’s intent to file a lawsuit against VMWare on behalf of Vasquez and any others whose applications were denied because they are DACA recipients.

According to the notification letter, VMWare violated a section of the labor code that prohibits employers from “refus[ing] to honor . . . work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work.” DACA recipients are authorized by the federal government to work in the United States.

Vasquez, 27, applied in January for a paid internship position as a technical support engineer and was contacted shortly thereafter by a recruiter who confirmed receipt of the application and said “that she thought [Vasquez] would be a great fit for the position,” according to the notification letter. At the recruiter’s request, Vasquez set up a 15-minute pre-screen phone call for Jan. 23.

During that call, the letter states, the recruiter “abruptly asked [Vasquez] if she was a U.S. citizen,” and Vasquez responded that she is a DACA recipient. The recruiter “explained that VMware required that the applicant be either a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident and then ended the call.”

“Ms. Vasquez successfully completed her undergraduate studies, and should not now be met with a barrier to enter the workforce,” MALDEF staff attorney Julia Gomez said. “A practice of excluding DACA recipients and other individuals with work authorization from employment is not just against the public interest, but is against the law.”

Today’s letter follows three previous challenges by MALDEF in the past year to employment policies that discriminate against DACA recipients. This year, MALDEF filed class-action lawsuits against Bank of America and Allied Wealth Partners, a New Jersey financial services firm, after they denied employment to a DACA recipient based on his immigration status. In July 2017, MALDEF and co-counsel Outten & Golden LLP sued consumer product giant Procter & Gamble on behalf of a former college student who had been denied a paid internship based on his DACA status.

Read the notification letter here.