As the first quarter of 2012 kicks off, this is a time for many companies to look back at 2011 to celebrate success, access opportunities, set goals and make plans for the next fiscal year. Opportunities may include new markets, new products, increases in advertising or research, reorganization and budgeting. For some employees it will be business as usual while others will take an active role in moving the business forward.
It is reasonable to assume most companies make decisions about the future by first looking to the past. Time is spent reviewing reports, looking at sales history, identifying trends and making plans to improve. Audits are performed to check compliance with government regulations. Industry standards are scrutinized and procedures are fine tuned to ensure goals are met. The past will help pave the path to the future for many organizations.
At this time of reflection and planning many businesses are assessing their hiring practices. History shows us the last 3 years were years of change for government enforcement of employment eligibility verification requirements. Since 2009, employers large and small have been targeted for document investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and most are found to be out of compliance with the requirements of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
Form I-9 Violations are Costly
Non-compliance with Form I-9 requirements cost employers on average $900 per employee. Many companies have paid fines well over $100,000! In addition to civil money penalties assessed by the government, the companies audited spent hundreds of man-hours, paid huge legal fees and suffered the public relations nightmare of being the target of an immigration investigation.
What is very important for employers to know about this government enforcement strategy is ICE is performing document inspections – not work site raids. During the ICE investigation each one of your employee’s Forms I-9 will be scrutinized and ANY ERROR, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will be penalized with a fine. Most of the companies audited and fined last year did not knowingly employ illegal workers; they had simply made mistakes while completing the Form I-9. Their fines were simply for I-9 errors!
Even more infuriating is that most of the I-9 mistakes made could have been avoided with proper training and attention to detail. I-9 rules allow you to repair many mistakes prior to a government inspection but you must be cautious about making the corrections within the rules.
Form I-9 Compliance Action Steps
As you make plans for 2012 it is prudent to put I-9 compliance toward the top of the list. Schedule an independent I-9 audit, get professional training from a qualified Form I-9 expert, carefully make corrections before your business is audited by ICE, and develop an I-9 compliance plan as a measure of your company’s good faith attempt to comply with the requirements of employment eligibility verification and the Form I-9.
If you have questions about an independent Form I-9 audit, contact I-9 Okay today…before its too late.