United States v. Nebraska Beef, Ltd., 082718 FED8, 17-1344

Docket Nº:17-1344
Opinion Judge:SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.
Party Name:United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee v. Nebraska Beef, Ltd. Defendant-Appellant
Judge Panel:Before SMITH, Chief Judge, BEAM and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges. BEAM, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:August 27, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
SUMMARY

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government in an action to enforce a settlement agreement. The court held that OSC's press release stating that its investigation found that Nebraska Beef had engaged in illegal employment practices did not constitute a material breach of the settlement agreement. Therefore, because the government did not fail to... (see full summary)

 
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United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee

v.

Nebraska Beef, Ltd. Defendant-Appellant

No. 17-1344

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 27, 2018

Submitted: May 15, 2018

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha.

Before SMITH, Chief Judge, BEAM and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.

Nebraska Beef, Ltd. ("Nebraska Beef") appeals the district court's1 grant of summary judgment to the government in this action to enforce a settlement agreement. We affirm.

I. Background

In 2012, the United States Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), 2 a section in the Department of Justice (DOJ), began an investigation into Nebraska Beef, a meat-packing company. The investigation sought to determine whether the company discriminated against immigrant workers in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b. Specifically, the OSC alleged that Nebraska Beef unlawfully required work-authorized immigrants to provide certain documents not required of non-immigrants. See 8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(6).

In 2015, rather than proceed into litigation, the government and Nebraska Beef entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement required Nebraska Beef to pay a $200, 000 civil penalty and to provide back pay to those who were not hired as a result of the practice or whose hiring was delayed by it. Nebraska Beef also agreed not to engage in any such practices in the future. The third and fourth opening recitals of the agreement set forth the parties' positions on liability: WHEREAS, the Office of Special Counsel concluded based upon its investigation that there is reasonable cause to believe that Respondent used documentary practices based on citizenship status in violation of [8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(6)].

WHEREAS, Nebraska Beef denies that it has used any documentary policies or practices based on citizenship status in its employment eligibility verification process in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324b(a)(6).

Appellant's Add. at 10.

Paragraph 3(b) stated, "The Office of Special Counsel maintains its right, as a federal agency statutorily charged with serving and educating the public regarding the scope of its enforcement activities, to notify the public, including but not limited to individuals [Nebraska Beef] identifies and notifies pursuant to paragraph 3, about this Agreement." Appellant's Add. at 11.

Nebraska Beef signed the agreement on August 20, 2015, and the government executed it four days later. That same day, the OSC issued a press release announcing the agreement on the DOJ website. The webpage also linked to a copy of the settlement agreement. The first two paragraphs of the release stated: The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with Nebraska Beef Ltd., a meat packing company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The settlement resolves an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) into whether the company was engaging in employment discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (lNA). In particular, OSC investigated whether the company was requiring non-U.S. citizen employees, because of their citizenship status, to present proof of their immigration status for the employment eligibility verification process.

The department's investigation found that the company required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility. The INA's anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from making documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying an employee's authorization to work.

Appellant's Add. at 20. Three days later, Nebraska Beef's counsel sent a letter to the OSC accusing it of breaching the agreement. The letter stated that the DOJ lacked the authority to make a finding that Nebraska Beef "required non-U.S. citizens . . . to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status" as described in the press release. Appellant's Add. at 22. Nebraska Beef stated that it never agreed to such a finding and that the agreement did not provide for such a finding. Nebraska Beef declared that, as a consequence of the government's breach, it would not make any of the payments...

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