I-9 Compliance and Audit
Our I-9 Compliance and Audit Practice is devoted to educating employers as to the I-9 regulations, as well as how to maintain compliance and undertake appropriate record-keeping. As Bellevue and Kirkland I-9 lawyers, we also represent and defend employers in I-9 audits and administrative actions.
I-9 Compliance, Audits, and Defense
All U.S. Employers Must Comply with the Federal I-9 Requirements, Even if They Have Only One Employee, and Even if All Employees are US Citizens
A common misperception on the part of many employers is that they need not be concerned with I-9 compliance and will not be subject to penalties if all of their employees are U.S. residents. This is not the case.
An I-9 is a federal government compliance form that must be completed in part by the employee and in part by the employer establishing the employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Even if the employer knows for a fact that all employees are U.S. citizens, this form is still required to be completed for each employee.
Employers must complete the I-9 form based on an examination of the employee’s original documents, and keep records of the documentation used in this process. They must also comply with the registration requirements and regulations developed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIC”), and not properly complying with such requirements and regulations can subject the organization to large fines and even significant jail time.
The employer sanctions rules were passed by Congress as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). For years the government rarely enforced these rules, as it allowed employers time to become educated about compliance.
After 9/11 the government focused on organizations in fields that may be targets for terrorists, such as power plants. Now they have expanded enforcement of I-9 compliance across the spectrum; as a result, every employer should be careful to maintain full compliance.
The Balance Between I-9 Compliance and Illegal Discrimination
With the implementation of I-9 laws, every employer walks a fine line between I-9 compliance and being accused of discrimination based on national origin. It is now critical for every employer of any type or size to obtain proper counsel regarding I-9 compliance so that national origin matters are handled in a legal and non-discriminatory fashion.
Is Your Company Ready? Understanding I-9 Audits
We assist companies in all aspects of I-9 compliance and audits. We will discuss with you a manageable scope for an internal audit of your I9’s, if you choose. Internal audits assess the status of an employer’s I-9’s and make corrections as needed. Doing so is an important action step to demonstrate good faith compliance and should be done carefully, or it may result in discrimination even if unintentional.
For example, a sample audit can be done; a complete audit of every worker 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, as the government has instructed that non-representative audits 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, we urge you to contact us as soon as practical, as waiting can have undesired consequences.
Keep in mind the best government audit defense is a good offense. Be ready. Note that ICE gives favorable consideration to corrections made prior to receiving a subpoena. Each error can result in heavy penalties — even if all hires were in fact authorized to work in the U.S.
Questions or Concerns About What to Do?
Our Bellevue I-9 lawyers include experienced employment law and immigration/I-9 compliance attorneys who are ready to help your business through an internal review of your I-9’s, as well as to assist you in the event of a government compliance action.
Practice Team Leader – Marcia P. Ellsworth