Luxury talent recruitment – beware!

Barnes & Thornburg partner Sarah Hawk explores the potential dangers of third-party recruitment options for luxury brands
A photo of a job interview

Brands must carefully follow anti-discrimination provisions when using third-party recruitment efforts Shutterstock

With expert predictions that the luxury landscape will transform by 2030, luxury brands are already moving away from traditional thinking and focusing instead on new models of luxury, concentrating on diversifying sources, promoting sustainability, creating non-traditional relationships, and repositioning the brand. To achieve these important objectives, employers, guided by legal counsel, must carefully recruit talent.  

When internal recruitment efforts do not suffice, luxury brands have many third-party recruitment options for maintaining and expanding workforces. Importantly, these efforts must comply with the anti-discrimination provision of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.  

Several prominent organisations have come under scrutiny in recent years, including academic institutions from which many luxury brands recruit designers and engineers.  

According to the US Department of Justice’s investigation into The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), the university violated the INA by maintaining a recruitment platform that required third-party employers to pay the university in order to post advertisements regarding its career fairs that excluded certain non-US citizens and limited job recruitment opportunities based on citizenship status. In September, the US Department of Justice reached an agreement with Georgia Tech to settle claims related to the investigation. As a result, Georgia Tech received a demand to pay a $500,000 fine, among other consequences, including a mandate to change its recruiting practices to comply with INA regulations.

The university was not the only one penalised for its actions, demonstrating the potential ripple effect within the luxury industry. On 16 June last year, the Department of Justice settled with 16 employers; on 21 September 2022, the department settled with four employers; and on 23 May this year, the department settled with another 10 employers. In total, since the filing of the discrimination complaint, the DOJ has issued more than $1.6m in civil penalties to 30 separate employers who used Georgia Tech’s recruiting platform as a third-party job posting site. In particular, the DOJ highlighted the intentional exclusion by these employers of non-US citizens “who stand on equal footing with US citizens in their ability to work, such as lawful permanent residents, refugees and those granted asylum by the federal government”.  

In a global economy shaped by trends in artificial intelligence and an international workforce, luxury brands must juggle various demands for talent in a rapidly changing world while also complying with relevant employment and immigration laws. As the sector continues to expand, many challenges are on the horizon for the general counsel of today’s luxury businesses.  

Given the ripple effect of recruitment through university employment sites, luxury brands are encouraged to consult with immigration counsel and carefully review the practices of recruitment platforms to ensure hiring is not in conflict with the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act as enforced by the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

Barnes & Thornburg partner Sarah H. Hawk brings nearly 20 years of experience helping companies develop and implement immigration policies to secure visas and permanent residence status for executives, managers and critical employees. Based in Atlanta, she is chair of the firm's immigration and global mobility practice. For more information, please contact Sarah at 404-264-4030 or [email protected]. This article was co-authored by attorney Tieranny Cutler. 

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