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April 4, 2012

I-9 Forms – Do You Know How to Comply?

Filed under: Compliance,General HR Buzz,Legal Issues — Tags: 12:39 pm

In a previous employment setting, I worked for a large company with multiple remote locations.  One of the most challenging pieces of the hiring process involved the I-9 form.  As you may recall, this new hire document was implemented in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  The form is used to validate authorization of employment of individuals in the U.S.  Employers are required to validate the documentation provided by employees and complete appropriate sections of the form within the first 3 days a new hire’s employment.

In my previous work experience, many of these forms would be completed off-site, oftentimes by an untrained supervisor, and would have missing information.  It could be a missing signature, unchecked box, or missing expiration date for an identification document.  In any case, it wasn’t completed accurately and the process had to be started all over again, which often would involve a delay in the employment process for the new hire.

As we explore the topic of compliance this quarter, the I-9 form came to mind.  If audited, potential penalties for errors include monetary fines, back pay, attorney’s fees, and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.  None of these are appealing to me, and I imagine you also feel the same.  By following some simple tips from IRCA, you may be able to reduce the risk of encountering any of the penalties outlined above:

  • Thoroughly review documents provided by applicants to determine authenticity.  It is our job to be vigilant and look for potential document fraud.
  • Do not ask for specific documents from employees to prove eligibility.  The employee may provide any of the types of documentation noted on the I-9 form.
  • Follow all recordkeeping requirements (specifics will be discussed in next week’s blog).
  • Do not use I-9 documentation for any purpose other than verification to avoid any possible discrimination issues.
  • Keep any photocopies made of the I-9 documentation with the I-9 form itself, in a separate file folder from the employee’s individual personnel file.

My story has a good ending.  By providing training to the supervisors completing the I-9 forms and following the tips above, we were able to reduce many of the errors we were encountering.  Additionally, we reduced the potential of being assessed penalties in the event of an audit.  I’m hoping you find this information helpful for your organization, along with the links below.

I-9 Form 2012

I-9 Form Guide for Employers

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