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Northwestern Mutual Biased Against Non-Citizens, Suit Says

Jul 9, 2014 / Media Coverage / Law360 — Pete Brush

A Mexican national living in New York City filed a class action against Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc. on Wednesday contending the Milwaukee-based life insurance giant maintains an unlawful blanket ban on hiring non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Plaintiff Ruben Juarez contends the $21 billion company refused to hire him despite his excellent marks in accounting studies at City University of New York and despite his authorization to work in the U.S. through the federal government's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The purpose of that program, authorized by President Obama in 2012, is to stop expelling talented young people, who were "raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country … [and] who want to staff our labs, or start new businesses, or defend our country."

Nevertheless when Northwestern Mutual learned Juarez was not a citizen and did not have a green card it blocked him from receiving a job offer and informed him that he did not meet their immigration status requirement, the lawsuit asserts.

"Northwestern Mutual recognized that Ruben Juarez is an extraordinary prospective hire with an exemplary record and a promising future, but the company's hiring policies and human resource personnel do not comply with federal law," said attorney Adam T. Klein of Outten & Golden LLP, who represents Juarez. “We hope this lawsuit prompts necessary policy changes at Northwestern Mutual.”

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Juarez's lawyers say they believe the suit to be a case of first impression.

The size of the potential class was not known, according to the lawsuit, but the complaint says "there are thousands of people who despite having work authorization do not meet Northwestern Mutual's immigration status and residency requirements."

As of February, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 500,000 people who had requested deferred action status, the suit says.

The suit seeks a judgment that the insurer intentionally discriminated against people like Juarez and caused them substantial losses in earnings and other work benefits. It seeks damages, including for "emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, and anguish," and an order forcing the insurer to change its policy.

Juarez is represented by Adam T. KleinOssai MiazadLewis M. Steel,Michael N. Litrownik and Olivia J. Quinto of Outten & Golden LLP and by Thomas A. Saenz, Victor Viramontes and Maribel Hernandez Rivera of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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The case is Juarez v. Northwestern Mutual, case number 14-cv-5107, in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

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