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The job applicant said that he was a U.S. citizen and showed a driver’s license to prove it. He seemed foreign�he is of Mexican descent�and the human resources clerk at Aztec Finishing Inc., a garment company in Commerce, Calif., asked to see a work authorization document from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The man came back with a certificate showing that he was a naturalized citizen. But the clerk said that all five available openings had been filled.

This month, the Justice Department announced that parent company Aztec Productions, which employs some 1,500 workers overall, will pay $27,000 to settle allegations that it discriminated against the man by overzealously applying a federal law that holds employers civilly and criminally liable if they hire illegal aliens. (The company admitted no wrongdoing, attributing what happened to inadvertence.)

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