3 Questions you need to ask your HR Department right now if you are a Manager or manage employees.
by Robert Gray
1. Could you provide all of your historical I-9 records within the 72 hour timeframe required for an ICE audit?
2. Do you know where ALL of your employee's I-9 Forms are?
3. Do you know if your historical I-9 Forms are compliant with DHS requirements?
If the answer to any of these questions is "NO", your Management Team (including its CEO, CFO, Managers, Supervisors, etc…) is in danger of Criminal Penalties. You need to make two choices immediately.
First, contact a third party Professional I-9 Auditing firm immediately. The idea of producing ALL of your I-9 Forms in only 72 hours might scare the majority of people in the workforce, and if I might add, it should scare you. That is why it is urgent that organizations/companies have their I-9 Forms professionally audited immediately. The cost to have your I-9 Forms professionally audited by the best firms is often "pennies on the dollar" when compared to the fines issued by DHS. For example, if you are missing even just one I-9 Form, the fine from DHS is $1,100 for each missing I-9 Form. In addition, the criminal charges that follow can result in a 6 month prison sentence for many members of management, including even lower to mid-level managers of the organization.
Does the image of a "ticking bomb" sound familiar? Often it is the case that most organizations keep their I-9 Forms stored in filing cabinets, collecting dust, in their office storage room or a remote warehouse. It is only a matter of time before DHS comes knocking on the door… so, time is of the essence to identify and mitigate the looming exposure.
The best expert auditors, which employ former INS and DHS agents, will audit your I-9s and identify errors, omissions, discrepancies, and recommend corrective action. In some cases, they can even make the corrections for you. You won't have to worry, if ICE comes knocking on your door because they will have already taken care of the problems.
Second, contact a Labor Relations firm. A Labor Relations firm will advise proper and legal communication, whether or not your workforce is unionized. One misstep by your organization in the handling of the I-9 Forms to the employees could result in a labor violation, the filing of unfair labor practice charges, or even forced representation through a bargaining order. Therefore, utilizing the expertise of a Labor Relations firm will keep you abreast of the latest developments in labor law and provide practical solutions to ensure your organization is prepared for the future. In addition, the best Labor Relations firms often have experience communicating and negotiating with DHS agents and offices.
If you wait until it's too late and are faced with a "Notice of Inspection" from DHS, the best Labor Relations firm will often negotiate a delay of inspection and eventually negotiate some of the charges (imprisonment) and fines associated with the violations found within the organization by DHS.
The key is to have your organization protected prior to DHS ever getting involved. Think of it as have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) reviewing your financial documents every year. That way, if the IRS shows up to audit the financials, the organization has proactively protected itself. The same mentality is recommended to have your I-9 Forms professionally audited.
Any organization that waits to professionally audit their I-9 Forms is either unaware of the risk they are sitting on or is just simply ignorant. On average, 80-85% of the I-9 Forms have errors, discrepancies, or are missing, from those audited by a third-party I-9 Auditing firm. The best companies are often managed by the best proactive people. Utilizing both a third party I-9 Auditing Firm and a Labor Relations firm are some of the best proactive actions an organization can take to protect itself before it's too late.
Robert Gray is a Director of Client Integration at Form I-9 Compliance, LLC.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.