Employers can face stiff penalties for I-9 violations which include substantial fines and also debarment from government contracts. Penalties can be imposed for hiring unauthorized workers as well as simply for committing paperwork violations even if all workers are authorized to work. So how does an employer sort through the information and fully protect itself from fines?
Knowledge is the key to understanding the severity of these penalties. Penalties can include $250 to $3,000 for improper completion of the I-9 form. Improper completion, retention or making it available for inspection fines range from $100 to $1,100 for each I-9. Knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers fines range from $250 up to $11,000 per violation. Firms who show a pattern of hiring unauthorized workers are liable for criminal penalties of as much as $3,000 per employee and may be subject to six months in prison. Investigators have considerable discretion in assessing fines and will look at factors like the size of the company, the seriousness of the violations, whether the employer was trying to comply in good faith and the pattern of past violations.
Depending on the state in which the company operates, this penalty can also include the suspension of license to practice within the state. So how can a business operate properly to protect itself?
All employers are required to complete an I-9 form of each new employee. This must be done within three business days of hire. The law stipulates that U.S. employers cannot hire or continue to employ persons who are unauthorized to work in the U.S. In addition, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Rhode Island require employers to utilize the on-line E-Verify system. On 6/9/08, President Bush issued Executive Order No. 12989 instructing federal agencies to require contractors to participate in the E-Verify Program.
Information regarding I-9 compliance and the E-Verify system can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s website: http://www.formi9.com/index.aspx?s=g-3
Employers should ensure that all personnel involved in the hiring process know and comply with the proper procedures for completing the I-9 Form. I-9 Forms should be kept separate from all other personnel documents.