Employer Solutions Staffing Group was recently fined over $200,000 for failure to follow Form I-9 protocol to confirm the identity of almost 250 employees. The Executive Office for Immigration Review found that the staffing agency was incorrectly completing section 2 of Form I-9 which, according to Administrative Law Judge Ellen K. Thomas, “. . . is a serious violation.” “Section 2 of Form I-9 is properly completed only when the person who signs the Section 2 attestation is the same person as the person who examines the employee’s original documents.” In this case, the human resource representatives signed off on Section 2 based off of photocopied documents.
There are many complexities to filling out an I-9 for a job applicant correctly. It is estimated that over 75% of all completed Form I-9s contain at least one error. Since all employers from 1986 on have been required to complete and maintain Form I-9s for all employees, education on how to properly complete them should be in high demand. The penalties are serious; “paperwork violations” can result in fines ranging from $110-$3,200 for each individual error. Additionally, criminal prosecutions can result from “willful violations” which has been so broadly defined as to mean: simply not doing enough to ensure proper compliance.
The need for compliance is ever increasing because the amount of audits is on the rise. From 2007-2013 audits increased 1,100%. According to Form I-9 Compliance, “anything can trigger an ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] audit. Anonymous complaints from a disgruntled employee, or even one of your competitors, can lead to a surprise visit. Other audits are simply conducted on a random basis. No geographical region is immune to these visitations.” The most important thing to have in case of an audit is the Form I-9 for every current employee. It is also required to have I-9’s for employees whose employment has ended for at least three years from the date of hire, or for one year after the employment has ended, whichever is later.
Considering the risk of being audited, Peopletrail believes a good way to manage I-9s is by using Electronic Form I-9’s which are securely stored in a centralized electronic database. Additionally, electronic I-9’s vs hard copy I-9’s have certain safeguards to prevent minor omissions or mistakes. For more information on electronic I-9s, please contact us.
It is important to note that the prospective employer is the party responsible for completing the Form I-9 and as a separate entity Peopletrail cannot conduct any part of that process. The root of the violation outlined above involved the wrong party handling a part of the process. We do not want to cross that line because it is ultimately the employer who pays the price. Although Peopletrail cannot legally handle I-9’s for our clients, we are available to educate them about I-9 compliance and provide a place to store all the information side by side with other pre-employment investigations and documentation for the employee in question. Using our platform for I-9s also makes it easier to utilize our integration with E-verify if employers are required or simply desire to definitively verify an applicant’s right to work status.