By: Don Kim
So you’ve gone through the entire recruiting process, received a signed offer letter and hired the perfect candidate. If you think your role in the hiring process ends there, you are sorely mistaken. Besides undergoing a satisfactory onboarding process, all new hires must properly complete government forms which enable them to legally call themselves employees of your company. Out of all the new hire paperwork that needs to get done, one of the most familiar — our good friend the I-9 — is the most important to complete and maintain correctly. Proper I-9 completion and compliance is a matter that the government takes very seriously, as demonstrated by the current Administration’s renewed vigor in audits for compliance enforcement.
Abercrombie and Fitch. Chipotle. Subway. Macy’s. All four of these mega-businesses have recently been penalized and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for noncompliance of I-9 laws. Mind you, some of these businesses were pegged not for hiring undocumented workers, but simply for incorrectly filling out the forms. Just this past week ICE issued 1000 Notice of Inspections to companies requesting Form I-9 documentation for all current employees and any employees terminated within the last 3 years. In the past, 80% of companies that have been inspected by the ICE ended up paying considerable civil money penalties for incorrectly filling out an I-9.
If ICE were to send your company a Notice of Inspection tomorrow, would you be ready? All I-9 form documentation must be in accordance with 2006 interim final regulations. I-9 forms must not only be complete, but also filled in properly, accurately and in a manner that is easily accessible by ICE. Creating a customized company compliance plan for form I-9 documentation is your best defense against an ICE inspection. A good plan should include:
- A training session on how to properly handle and fill out I-9 forms
- Consulting a third-party to audit your system to make sure it would pass an ICE inspection
- Regular audits completed in-house
- A system (automated or otherwise) to ensure that forms are completed correctly within 3 days of hire.
While the government may offer some leniency through its Good Faith Compliance provision that allows companies up to 10 days to fix I-9 documentation errors that are considered minor, you do not want to take any chances. Do your due diligence and get a process in place to collect and maintain proper documentation.
In this case, it is not about what you do, but how you do it.