Every organization with even one employee is required to comply with the I-9 regulations. Not properly completing and maintaining I-9 forms can subject the organization to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and even significant jail time. A colleague recently had a client with a couple hundred employees try to handle a government I9 audit on its own, and didn’t contact the attorney until it was too late, and they had received a fine of $900,000.00.
At the same time, every employer walks a fine line between I9 compliance and being accused of discrimination based on national origin. It is now very important for every employer of any type to obtain proper counsel regarding I-9 compliance.
The employer sanctions rules were passed by Congress as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. For years the government didn’t really enforce the rules, as it allowed employers time to become educated about compliance. After 9/11 the government focused especially on organizations in fields that may be targets for terrorists such as power plants. Now they have expanded enforcement of I9 compliance across the spectrum. Every employer should be careful to maintain itself in full compliance.
Your first step is to contact us to talk with you about your situation. Then we will discuss with you a manageable scope for an internal audit of your I9’s, if you choose. This must be done carefully, as it is one area that can result in discrimination, even if not intentional. For example, a sample audit can be done; a complete audit of every I9 is not always practical for employers with large numbers of employees. However, you cannot choose the sample based on those you believe have immigration documents or aren’t U.S. citizens. The government has instructed that doing so is discrimination. There are, however, acceptable ways to select the sample, and we will discuss that with you. We will then advise you of errors found on the I-9’s audited, and conduct a training for the people in your specific organization that are handling the I9’s. After that, regular internal audits will be faster and easier to ensure you remain compliant. Should you receive a subpoena from the government for your I-9’s, DO NOT WAIT; contact an experienced attorney right away.