Cutting corners when it came to verifying the eligibility of employees for small and mid-size businesses, via Form I-9, was at one time quite frequent. The Immigration Reform and Control Act, first passed in 1986, subsequently added numerous amendments and revisions that made compliance a difficult task for employers. Lax oversight by both business and law enforcement bore out bad habits by all.
For employers, those days are now gone. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are making sure companies large and small are Form I-9 compliant. Heavy fines and penalties that threaten the growth, and sometimes existence, of businesses are commonplace for those not fully committed to checking work eligibility requirements. Effective worksite enforcement, including civil and criminal action, await those who fail to comply.
And Form I-9 audits don’t merely focus on the employees hired, but also the paperwork itself. So even if your workers are authorized and verified, errors in Form I-9 completion and filing can result in fines if it’s determined inaccuracies or procedural inconsistencies occurred knowingly. This can place a heavy burden on employers to correctly work within legal parameters, but work within those parameters they must. The alternative can be a crushing blow.
A Masonry company in Georgia was audited by ICE in 2010 and two counts were brought against the company. Count 1 involved improper filing of Form I-9 section 1 by 277 different employees, and count 2 alleged the company failed to properly prepare or complete forms for 87 employees. The business was using partially prepopulated forms with a rubber stamping process prior to completion. Fines ranging from $110 to $1000 per employee meant that a grand total of $332,000 was initially levied against the business. All from paperwork violations.
A California business providing electronics to aerospace, military and medical markets was audited for non-compliant hiring practices. It was found that paperwork deficiencies in Form I-9 led to 62 employee violations for a total of $63,767 in fines. The business freely admitted to the mistakes made and instead challenged the judgement on the grounds of reasonability compared to the perceived violation. It didn’t matter. The presiding judge ruled that admission was enough to collect the fine. Once again, due to paperwork infractions.
Maintaining eligibility guidelines, including strict I-9 compliance, is essential for employers to prevent crippling liability. The best way to establish these guidelines is with a knowledgeable partner. Paycor specializes in helping businesses of all sizes with Onboarding and HR solutions, offering trusted guidance to a sometimes overwhelming process. Contact us to see how we can best serve you.
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