I-9 Form (part of employee new hire packet) & the New Immigration Crackdown
As many of you are aware, immigration and illegal workers have become a hot political topic. During President Bush’s State of the Union address he called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He went on to say “We need reform that will secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, and create a temporary worker program.” In the fall of 2005, the President signed a bill that doubled the amount of resources available to enforce worksite compliance. In addition, the number of arrests for worksite enforcement cases in 2006 was seven times higher that it was in 2002. The average fine for incomplete I-9 forms is $500 per form. That includes both current and terminated employees so you can see how that could add up real fast.
It is clear that the government is going to put more and more pressure on business owners to make sure that they are in compliance. The easiest and most effective way for them to do this is to track illegal workers through the Social Security Administration. Every year, the Social Security Administration rejects hundreds of thousands of W-2 tax forms because the SS# does not match their records. The SSA then sends out a letter to the employer requesting a verification of the employee’s SS#. The employer is then responsible for getting corrected information from the employee and sending the corrected info back to the SSA. If the employee is still working for the company and it was simply a mistake, then the request is done easily. However, if the employee is terminated or gave the employer a fraudulent SS# than how do you respond to that? Since every employer is required to verify whether or not an employee is authorized to work by properly completing the I-9 form, they really don’t have a reasonable defense. Most employers that find themselves in this predicament simply don’t respond. The SSA knows this and has begun to use this as a method to track down and punish businesses that employ illegal workers.
Another method that INS (United States Immigration and Naturalization Service) may use to crack down on illegal workers is to simply target certain types of industries. Other government agencies have been known to pull names of companies that fit a particular industry segment and randomly inspect or visit them.
The third way that a company may fall under the eyes of the INS is by a formal or informal complaint. Mohawk Industries, a carpeting & floor covering company, is currently being sued by a group of employees. The employees accuse Mohawk of conspiring to keep employee wages low by employing illegal immigrants and therefore causing an undo negative influence on the cost of labor. We all have also heard stories about disgruntled current and former employees who have incorrectly or correctly reported a company to a government agency in an effort to damage them in some way or another.
The best way to prepare ourselves against any possible difficulties that may come from this issue is to simply take a few minutes with each new employee and make sure that the I-9 is completed properly and completely. I have attached a sample completed I-9. In addition, ELM Staffing is going to start becoming more diligent with regard to employee paperwork. We will still accept incomplete paperwork but we will begin to turn around and send the forms (s) back that need a little more attention.