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Employers must accept eligibility documents to avoid lawsuits

Q&A with Nathan Whatley

published in The Oklahoman | June 21, 2006

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Nathan Whatley was interviewed by The Oklahoman about a recent ruling in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Ramon Zamora v. Elite Logistics Inc. The plaintiff, a naturalized citizen of Mexican descent, filed a race and national origin discrimination suit against his employer. The court ruled that the Kansas-based company’s failure to accept Zamora’s identity documents, which appeared valid, cast doubt on their motives. The case must now be presented to the jury to determine if the company had discriminated against the plaintiff because of his race or nationality.

In the Q&A, Whatley also advised employers not to require specific forms of identity from employees and prospective employees. “Requiring specific documents when completing the I-9 employment verification form can be considered discriminatory, as well as overdocumenting. It’s up to the worker to decide which of the various documents listed on the back of the I-9 form to present for identity and proof of eligibility to work.”