A staffing company operating in Washington & Oregon was just hit with a $1,527,308.90 fine for failing to properly follow the rules for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. After receiving a tip and inspecting the company’s records, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered extensive I-9 violations centering on repeated failures to accurately and completely prepare I-9 forms including failing to fill in numerous fields, failing to provide required information, and failing to provide required signatures as well as repeatedly failing to reverify temporarily approved employment authorization. The majority of these violations appeared minor on their face as they include failing to check a box, or providing incomplete information or certain specific fields; nonetheless Employers may be fined for each and every violation individually in a range of hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation. In the case at hand, such “small” violations accumulated rapidly into the 7 figure fine.
Prudent employers should heed this example taking care to review their I-9 compliance program to ensure they protect themselves from such potentially devastating fines. Critically, employers should take care to:
Perform a comprehensive review of I-9 processes and procedures ensuring safeguards are implemented and best practices communicated to relevant staff.
Ensure a specific staff member (or members) are responsible for overseeing and monitoring I-9 compliance.
Implement regularly scheduled audits to review I-9s for compliance and proactively address any errors.
Consult legal counsel if there are any questions about I-9 compliance or an employee’s work authorization.
Employers who take these relatively simple measures can protect themselves from exponentially more costly fines down the road. An audit today could save $1,527,308.90 tomorrow, be prudent.