I-9 Compliance Steps to Keep Your Employees Properly Documented

By Michael Wildes Partner , Wildes & Weinberg | September 02, 2010

Verifying employment eligibility is a complicated task for all businesses but it poses particular difficulties for the hotel industry. As a high-volume and often seasonally driven business with very high turnover, juggling employment eligibility verification forms (also known as Form I-9) can be a deceptively tall order. Despite the challenges, taking the time to familiarize oneself with Form I-9 compliance is a worthwhile investment in order to avoid weighty fines or possible criminal penalties.

Every employee hired after November 6, 1986 should have an I-9 form on record demonstrating that your company performed a good faith effort to verify that person's employment eligibility. The seasonal nature of the hotel industry, however, often demands that employees be hired, let go and sometimes rehired as the volume of business requires. When an employee is rehired, one must once again undertake the responsibility of verifying that person's eligibility to work in the United States. Depending upon the given circumstances, a rehire may be re-verified on either Section 3 of his or her original I-9 or on a new form entirely.

Since taking up the reins in January 2009, the Obama administration has switched its focus from Bush-era worksite raids to an increased emphasis on employer hiring policies in the fight to curb illegal immigration. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has been auditing the I-9 forms of companies suspected of engaging in illegal hiring practices. Possible repercussions for improperly handled or maintained I-9 forms may range from civil penalties of $110 to $1,100 per violation, to criminal penalties of up to $3,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment per employee for engaging in a pattern of knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens.

Though the I-9 form itself comprises just one page, filling it out correctly can be a surprisingly difficult task, as evidenced by the nearly sixty-page booklet that accompanies it. The M-274 Handbook for Employers is published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is intended to answer any questions you may have about the I-9 form and the employment eligibility verification process. We've taken a moment to outline here some tips and good practices that may help you in your efforts to properly document all your employees:

1) Read and refer to the M-274

It's not a riveting read but the M-274 Handbook for Employers is clearly written and offers a comprehensive breakdown of which documents are valid for proof of identity and employment eligibility, as well as providing directives for more specific scenarios, such as filling out the I-9 form for minors, for special placement employees with disabilities, and how to process employees with temporary employment eligibility. Especially relevant for the hotel industry are the instructions on reverifying rehired employees (p.12), as mentioned earlier. Also, hospitality groups hiring foreign-born workers will be greatly aided by the M-274's guidance on verifying these employees' eligibility documents. For example, a foreign-born person arriving on a J-1 visa (Nonimmigrant exchange visitors), such as through the Work and Travel USA program, must proffer an unexpired foreign passport, an I-94 form, and a DS-2019 form specifying the sponsor. If that employee is working outside of the program indicated on the DS-2019, he or she must provide a letter from his/her responsible school officer (M-274, p. 54). Please be aware that the J-1 visa encompasses several different categories of student exchange visitors and not all will be eligible to work. In short, members of the hospitality industry may encounter situations that step outside the "typical" I-9 and deriving your answers from the M-274 should serve you well.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.


Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Cid Jenkins
John Poimiroo
Jim Poad
Bob Kelleher
Vanessa Horwell
Ken Hutcheson
Brian West
Kevin Wilhelmsen
Tina Stehle
Rollin Bell
Coming up in May 2019...

Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.