An Easy Path to I-9 Compliance

By
Mark Lotstein, President, Retail Optimization Group LLC

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Given all the recent news regarding 7-Eleven’s employee issues, as well as all the similar things you are not hearing about due to the retailers being small chains and/or independent operators, I thought it would be prudent to have Ted Wojcik, our SPHR-certified humanresources consultant, write about the issues facing our industry.

Compliance Checklist

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is aggressively checking that businesses are fully compliant. ICE is not only targeting employers, but it is also holding accountable individual executives, managers and former managers who actually hired illegal workers.

Non-compliance of completed employee Form I-9s can result in fines in the hundreds or thousands per violation, along with forfeiture of a business’ assets. Some statistics show errors on 10% to 40% of currently maintained I-9 forms. Fines can add up very quickly, but they can be avoided with proper HR care.

The buck stops with you once you sign off on the completeness of recorded I-9 forms. Omitting the hire date, transposing a Social Security number or not checking off eligibility boxes are examples of small mistakes that are taken very seriously by the federal government. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says, “All U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens.”

This important document is detailed to ensure that workers are who they claim to be and are legal to work for you. With a little training, you can correctly compile I-9s in your company files.

Here are several tips to remember when checking a new employee’s I-9:

  • Do use the newest version, which has a revision date of “03/08/13 N” on the bottom left corner of the form. The new form is required only for new hires; do not complete one for current employees whose valid I-9 is on file.
  • Do complete the I-9 within three business days of the new hire date.
  • Do review documents while employee is present.
  • Do keep I-9 for at least three years following the employee’s hire date, or for one year after separating from the company, whichever is later.
  • Do re-verify employee documents when necessary; some expire, such as like driver’s licenses and passports.
  • Do maintain a separate file for all employee I-9 forms.
  • Don’t specify documents to present. The employee has the right to choose which documents to present, provided they are on the I-9’s List of Acceptable Documents.
  • Don’t accept copied or expired documents.
  • Don’t forget I-9 is always required.

An E for Effort

E-Verify is another way to ensure that you are a compliant company. This is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify is fast, free and easy to use. This process is dependent on information contained in an I-9 form, but DHS/SSA will quickly confirm the right to work.

So should you E-Verify new hires or should you just keep using Form I-9? Because states vary and there is no set federal guideline on who should request an E-Verify, it is a good idea to become familiar with using it and phase it into your company’s HR protocol. The USCIS has compiled a 65-page handbook for using this service, which may or may not be as simple to understand as it proposes. Keep in mind that since fiscal year 2009, ICE has audited more than 6,000 employers, imposed $76 million in sanctions and has arrested 221 employers for noncompliance of this requirement. Why leave yourself vulnerable? You owe it to yourself to make sure your team is checking these forms correctly and completely.

Using an I-9 employment eligibility verification service can benefit your company in several ways. It will reduce time and labor spent verifying employment eligibility and maintaining files, minimize risk during government audits, eliminate the possibility of legal penalties, prevent possible negative publicity, and give you peace of mind. 

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