I-9 compliance is one business expense you should not consider cutting. ICE recently reached settlements with three different companies and imposed heavy fines for I-9 infractions and hiring discrimination against both legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. These fine amounts illustrate the importance of spending the time, effort, and money now to ensure you are I-9 and visa compliant so as to avoid hefty fines and headaches when ICE comes knocking at your office door.
On June 7th, an OCAHO judge ordered Alpine Staffing Inc., a Minnesota-based staffing company, to pay over $276,000, finding the company had neglected to adequately complete I-9 forms for more than 100 workers. The company failed to prepare or present I-9 forms for 34 employees, didn’t give the government such forms for 310 workers after three days of notice, and failed to “properly complete” I-9 forms for 130 employees. ICE had initially requested an even higher fine amount.
On May 16th, the Office of Special Counsel- Immigrant Employee Rights division reached a settlement agreement with Washington Potato Company and Pasco Processing, LLC. The lawsuit alleged that the company requested LPRs to produce a specific document to prove work authorization. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits such unfair documentary requests when based on citizenship status or national origin. Under the agreement, the company will pay $225,750 in civil penalties, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
On May 23rd, OSC reached a settlement agreement with Carrillo Farm Labor, LLC, an onion farm in New Mexico. The settlement resolves the department’s investigation of complaints that Carrillo Farm discriminated against U.S. citizens due to a hiring preference for H-2A foreign visa workers. The company must pay $44,000 in full back pay and lost wages, a $5,000 civil penalty, and provide notice to the OSC IER of any H-2A visa applications filed for the next two years, among other requirements.
The best way to avoid fines it to conduct an internal I-9 audit, review your hiring policies and procedures to determine any discrimination issues, and to assess all employment-based visas you have filed or will file to ensure you are in full compliance. Our office offers I-9 audit services and can advise you on all aspects of discriminatory practices and visa compliance to prevent you from paying the price later on. Spending the time and effort now is the best way to avoid the financial hassle of ICE becoming interested in your business practices later.