I-9 Compliance: Don’t Get Burned By An ICE Audit

  • By Mark Ridgeway
  • 01 Aug, 2017
employer i-9 eligibility form

Since 1986, the U.S. has placed upon employers the burden of acting as gate-keepers in the enforcement of the immigration laws.

At the same time, employers must be very careful not to discriminate against authorized employees or candidates for employment based on citizenship or national origin.

The result is a very fine line that employers are required to walk, with steep pitfalls (business disruption, steep fines, negative publicity, discrimination lawsuits, and criminal penalties) awaiting any missteps.

In the last few years, immigration reforms and increased enforcement have been the topics of extensive debate.

While politicians haven’t been able to see eye to eye on every aspect, one proposition which seems to meet little objection is the idea that employers should be subjected to greater scrutiny and enforcement, increasing the burden of their role as front-line evaluators of workforce authorization.

Indeed, the last few years have seen significant increases in workforce audits and raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") at all levels.

An I-9 audit can be triggered for a number of reasons, including random samples and reporting by disgruntled employees (or ex-employees).

Certain business sectors, for example food production, are especially susceptible to I-9 audits, and "silent raids" by ICE. In the event of an audit, your company will need to establish its I-9 compliance with ICE. Without a proactive approach, such responses are likely to be reactive and defensive. This typically leads to an internal emergency in responding expeditiously, resulting in a harried response, lost productivity, increased attorney’s fees, worker replacement difficulties and possibly fines or criminal charges.

Therefore, while proper I-9 compliance has always been important, it has never been more essential. It is not enough for employers to simply fill out the I-9 form to the best of their ability according to the basic form instructions and throw them in a file. The risks are simply too high to maintain a lackadaisical approach to I-9 compliance. Proper I-9 compliance requires focused and proactive planning.

The good news is, at Courthouse Concepts we have the tools to help employers manage this entire process. Our secure and accurate Form I-9 system will:

• Virtually eliminate technical errors on the Form I-9

• Help ensure that your workforce is legally authorized to work in the United States

• Simplify and improve the efficiency of your Form I-9 employment verification process

Compliance is built in , so you are always up-to-date with current forms.

Reduce your exposure to government audits, financial penalties and negative publicity resulting from non-compliance. Contact us for more information on how we can help!


The CHC Blog

By Mark Ridgeway 16 Aug, 2017

“Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.”  -Steve Wynn

It’s easy to ignore the human resources side of your business when things are flowing smoothly. After all, there are far more pressing concerns nagging us each day. Relations with employees can be enjoyable and fulfilling or time-consuming and terrifying, depending on the situation.

Being proactive in the area of HR, recognizing and rectifying HR mistakes before they become serious problems, can save you countless headaches and protect your business against costly legal claims.

HR mistake #1: An outdated employee handbook

Every business, no matter how small, should have an up-to-date employee handbook. If you don’t put the most current dos and don’ts in writing, you’re asking for trouble. In addition, laws change, which may significantly alter the applicability of your policies.

Even a few pages outlining acceptable and expected behavior provides employees with tangible guidelines. The employee handbook should be updated about every two years, and all employees should sign an acknowledgment form stating that they received the publication and will abide by its policies.

Include information such as your company’s:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Communications policy
  • Non-discrimination policy
  • Compensation & benefits
  • Employment & termination guidelines

HR mistake #2: Failing to document performance issues

Written policies and standard operating procedures are the boundaries that govern employee conduct. When a violation occurs, it must be accurately and thoroughly documented. Although it may seem time-consuming to jot down in a file that someone was reprimanded for repeated tardiness, it’s important evidence that can support a decision to terminate that individual for unsatisfactory job performance, for example.

In addition, when a company is consistent in its application of performance issues, it’s better able to address potential legal issues that may arise in the future, such as a discrimination claim.

HR mistake #3: Incomplete employee files

For compliance reasons, it’s very important to keep records of all the personnel documents attached to your employees’ work histories.

It’s also a good practice to make sure the proper documents are kept in the employee performance file. Some documents that contain personal information, such as leave and disability forms, should be kept in a separate folder since these are personal in nature and aren’t needed to manage an employee’s performance.

It’s helpful to have a binder for all valid I-9s, which verify employee identity and work eligibility in the United States. They should be easy to access and updated when necessary. Fines can add up quickly if you can’t produce current and accurate documents upon request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

And because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it may be wise to store your employees’ health and welfare-related benefits information separately as well.

HR mistake #4: Disregard for training

Taking time to train your employees is a valuable investment in the future of your business. By including training in the onboarding process, your employees may become more fully engaged and understand how to use their skills to best benefit your company.

Employers who spend time on training also get training’s indirect benefit: employees who feel like they’re valuable and capable of doing more for your organization.

And remember, it’s important that the employee’s performance, including skills and areas of opportunity and growth, are accurately reflected in their performance reviews.

HR mistake #5: Inadequate HR policies

Don’t overlook the importance of an internal HR audit. Set aside time annually to make sure your HR policies are current and complete.

Also, sometimes the unthinkable happens and disaster strikes. By providing clear guidelines on how to respond prior to an incident, you can help minimize the impact it might have on your employees and your business.

A well-thought-out plan will help protect you, your employees and your customers. Consider these questions when developing your plan:

  1. Who will be in charge?
  2. What circumstances do you evacuate or take shelter?
  3. Do you have an off-site meeting place for people to gather?
  4. How will you communicate with your employees during a disaster?
  5. What is the vacation payout policy if an employee quits?

Having policies and plans for handling unexpected events reduces the stress, liabilities and costs to your business.

HR mistake #6: Lack of knowledge in employment compliance

Managers must be fluent in employment laws and regulations. In addition, they must have access to a resource that can keep them up to date in the changing employment environment.

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors when they’re not, or as exempt from overtime when they shouldn’t be, can be costly oversights.

Failure to comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) regulations for your industry may also yield stiff fines.

Prevention is key. Take time to identify what regulatory agencies govern your industry and what laws must be followed.

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