Discrimination Claim Lodged Against Northwestern Mutual

The National Law Journal Lisa Hoffman
July 17, 2014

Employing the rarely used Civil Rights Act of 1866 as its basis, a Mexican-born college honors graduate claims in a putative class action against Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. that the insurer engaged in alienage discrimination when it rejected him for a job even though he has legal status to work in the United States.

Ruben Juarez, 25, who graduated summa cum laude with an accounting degree from the City University of New York and has been accepted to pursue a master’s degree at Fordham University, contends a Northwestern Mutual recruiter expressed interest in hiring him until she learned he was neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident.

But Juarez possesses another form of legal U.S. work authorization, one granted him by the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, issued by President Barack Obama to grant temporary permission for undocumented youths who came to the U.S. as children to stay and work for at least two years. The deferred action ” status can be extended for another two years after that. Juarez and others who qualify are given a Social Security number and work permit.

Northwestern Mutual’s refusal to employ anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or who does not have a green card ” violates the Civil War era act, as codified by 42 U.S.C. § 1981, that bars discrimination on the basis of alienage, argues the complaint in Juarez v. The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., filed on July 9 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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As of early February, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved more than 500,000 DACA requests.

Juarez’ suit seeks back pay and damages, injunctive relief, and a declaratory judgment that Northwestern Mutual’s hiring practices are unlawful.

Plaintiffs are represented by Adam Klein, Ossai Miazad, Lewis Steel and Michael Litrownik, of Outten & Golden LLP, and by Thomas Saenz, Victor Viramontes and Maribel Hernandez Rivera, of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.