Microsoft resolves immigrant discrimination allegations with Department of Justice via settlement

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Microsoft logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • The United States Justice Department reached a settlement with Microsoft regarding allegations of discrimination against non-U.S. citizens.
  • Microsoft sent emails to lawful permanent residents that asked for documents proving the right to work, even after proof had been given, according to the Justice Department.
  • Even when sponsorship was not required by the company, Microsoft asked permanent residents, refugees, and asylees to prove their right to work.

The United States Department of Justice announced a settlement with Microsoft regarding allegations that the tech giant discriminated against non-U.S. citizens. The claims stemmed from problematic inquiries regarding the citizenship status of applicants during the hiring process. Microsoft also asked for immigration documents that weren't required to prove that people could work for the company. This was done even in cases where there wouldn't be a need for Microsoft to handle sponsorship duties, according to the Justice Department.

Additionally, the settlement covers the fact that Microsoft discriminated against lawful permanent residents by asking for additional documentation or different types of documents than what was required by law. The statement from the Justice Department explains that this was done to "reverify their continuing permission to work in the United States," which is not a requirement in some of the cases in question.

A call from the Civil Rights Division's Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) sparked the investigation. According to the spouse of an applicant that made that call, Microsoft asked for her husband's Permanent Resident Card while he was applying for a job at the company.

"The investigation found evidence that the company repeatedly asked lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees to undergo an evaluation of their need for Microsoft to sponsor them for an employment-based visa even though they do not require sponsorship to work in the United States," explained the Justice Department.

The Justice Department also outlined other aspects of the situation:

The investigation determined that the company discriminated against at least six lawful permanent residents based on their immigration status during this visa evaluation process by asking them to show a Permanent Resident Card to prove they had permission to work without employer sponsorship. The investigation also determined that from at least June 2019 until at least January 2020, Microsoft routinely sent emails to lawful permanent residents asking them for documents to confirm their continued work authorization even though they had already provided documents showing permanent work authorization.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, employers must verify that an applicant can work in the United States. But the law prohibits employers from asking for documents when they're not required. Employers are also prohibited from limiting or specifying which types of valid documents a worker shows.

As part of the settlement, Microsoft will overhaul parts of its hiring process. The settlement also "requires the company to stop sending emails requesting documents to reverify work authorization to workers whose work authorization should not be reverified."

Going forward, employees that have to prove their right to work will be able to use their preferred documentation, as long as it is "acceptable for that purpose."

Microsoft will also pay a civil penalty to the U.S. government. The company will be required to train employees responsible for ensuring that people have a right to work in the United States. Microsoft will also be subject to monitoring and reporting by the Justice Department.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at (opens in new tab).

  • I would not have expected the company headed prominently by immigrant Satya Nadella to do this sort of stuff. And if I recall correctly, MS was also one of the biggest complainers when Trump was cracking down on certain visa classes. Probably somebody needs to be fired.
  • Somebody? Make that several somebodies. HR hiring practices are over seen and evaluated by multiple people. In a company of Microsoft's size and stature that is alot of people. As HR policies have to applied by HR administrators, officers as well as quality and compliance monitoring team's. This is done to avoid making unlawful policies and implementing such policies - the very reason why Microsoft had to settle with the DoJ. The operative word is “had” to settle and that settlement had to have a detailed plans for procedural changes top down. As well agreeing to being monitored by the DOJ to ensure compliance. As someone who works in QC for multiple teams and external partner organisations now. I can categorically the say the fan is choked with a ensuing ***** storm that is happening at Microsoft HQ. Heads are going to roll. Personally though, I hope the settlement also included a large scale fine. As only then it would send a clear message. Corporations cannot flout laws. Finally, Satya Nadella is an American Citizen. Phrasing of the comment speaks volumes about of a person's personality.
  • Oh I agree. I recognize that this is a kind of institutional harassment. I've never seen it personally but I can't imagine how frustrating it might be to be singled out like that and for no good reason.
  • though does fining a corporation fix this issue at all ? I don't see how it has fixed it for the past 10-15 years , instead they should be focusing on fining those who actually discriminate others, since if a business requires professionalism then shouldn't it be expected of those who work there? .