According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article, I-9 audits are on the rise (membership may be required). In 2004, only three audits were conducted compared with 3,004 in 2012. Simple paperwork errors can cost employers up to $1,100 per violation.
If you serve as the W-2 employer for your contractors, you are responsible for I-9 compliance . . . and any fines assessed in an I-9 audit. Here are some tips for making sure your I-9s pass muster.
- The newest version of form I-9 must be used exclusively starting May 7, 2013.
- Make sure the employee completes Section 1 on their first day of work. Inspect it to be sure that all the required information is provided and that Section 1 is signed and dated. If anything is incomplete, don't fill in the missing information. Only the employee can complete or correct Section 1.
- Be sure that you complete Section 2 within three days of the employee's start date. So if a contractor starts an assignment on a Monday, Section 2 must be complete by Thursday.
- Remember that you must physically view each original document the employee presents in order to complete Section 2. So what if your are too far from the employee to meet them? The I-9 does allow for an "authorized representative" to complete Section 2 instead of the employer. You could ask the client or a Notary Public to serve as the authorized representative. If you encounter a lot of reluctance, you may want to work with an attorney to draw up a disclaimer that assures them they will not be held liable for I-9 penalties.
- Conduct annual I-9 audits and make corrections where needed. But remember, don't white out mistakes. Cross them off, initial, and date any changes. Don't make changes to Section 1 - again only employees can make changes there, so if you find a mistake, ask the employee to make the correction. And be sure not to back date anything. While correcting I-9s may not eliminate penalties, they could reduce them.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) normally audits companies that are connected to the nation's "critical infrastructure," such as power plants, food-service businesses, airports, etc., according to SHRM. But complaints to ICE from disgruntled employees can also now initiate an audit, so don't assume that your firm is flying under the radar.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.
Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.