As employment eligibility enforcement in the U.S. continues to rise, it is critical that organizations adapt their I-9 programs to the changing environment in order to maintain compliance, or there could be costly implications. In February of this year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that one of its largest raids in years had resulted in fines of more than $530,000 for a food processing plant. The plant had mismanaged its Form I-9 process as well as failed to check for proper employment eligibility documentation.
In March of this year, ICE issued Notices of Inspection to over 180 businesses in five Southern states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. In recent months, similar raids have resulted in costly fines for companies that have hired people who are not lawfully eligible to work in the U.S., as well as for organizations with lax I-9 procedures and incomplete or incorrect documentation.
For employers, mitigating the risks of non-compliance means not only examining current I-9 procedures, but also keeping tabs on the ever changing landscape of regulations requiring the use of E-Verify.
Mandated use of E-Verify – As a result of Arizona’s recent immigration reform law, it is now the fourth state to require all employers to utilize the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-Verify system to verify employment eligibility. Sixteen more states either have laws or pending legislation mandating its use by some businesses, state agencies and government contractors. In addition, some counties and cities, such as Santa Monica, Calif., have passed ordinances requiring its use by employers within the city. As these regulations differ from federal to state to local governments, nationwide compliance by employers becomes increasingly complex and challenging.
Extended record keeping – In addition to requiring all employers to implement E-Verify, Arizona’s new legislation requires employers to maintain E-Verify records for the duration of the employee’s employment or at least three years, whichever is longer. Other states could follow suit.
Government contracts – For those companies doing work for the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security is supporting a regulation that will award federal contracts only to those employers who use E-Verify to confirm employee work authorization. Any company that is awarded a federal contract will be required to enroll in and use the E-Verify system. This will impact hundreds of thousands of businesses.
Managing an employment eligibility program poses many challenges given the constantly evolving regulations. It is important to stay informed of the latest industry trends to ensure compliance. It’s also critical that the I-9 process be managed stringently and accurately by employers of all sizes to avoid fines. By understanding and reviewing your employment eligibility program in the context of the most current federal state and local regulations, you will be on your way towards prevention of costly fines and other avoidable risks.
The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any statutes or laws cited in this article should be read in their entirety. If you or your customers have questions concerning compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations, we suggest that you address these directly with your legal department or outside counsel.