I-9 Compliance

Congress has charged employers with the responsibility of verifying new hires and existing employees are eligible to work in the United States. Form I-9 is the document used by the employer to verify a person is authorized to work. This form provides a list of qualifying documents employers may accept as proof of the employee’s identity and authorization to work

Unfortunately for employers, failure to comply may result in civil penalties, including very large fines, and even criminal fines. At the same time the employer must be careful to obtain information from the client to demonstrate legal authority to work in the United States, Congress also prohibits discrimination based on citizenship or national origin. And, if the employee makes a claim of discrimination, the employer is prohibited from taking retalitory action. For example, the employer has to be careful about the questions asked and may not ask for a specific document. to do so, may subject the employer to a claim by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices of the Department of Justice.

So, the delima for the employer is faced with a responsibility for which a wrong move may lead to more difficulties than a small business ever wanted.

All employers need to understand the basic requirements of Form I-9, including the timeline for obtaining the completed form and examining the documentation; reverification process of existing employees; how and where to keep the forms, including electronic collection and storage, and how to handle employee transfers and rehires.Employers must understand what it means to “knowingly” hire someone who is illegal, and the civil and criminal penalties associated with immigration violations.

By understanding these ares, training certain employees and following “best practice” systems, the employer is better prepared to respond to a worksite inspecition or immigration “raid”. Being prepared is the best way to remain focused on what is important to the business owner, and that is to avoid situations which may lead to unneccessary business loss.