Top Tips for Form I-9 Compliance
By Michael Wildes Managing Partner, Wildes and Weinberg PC | March 20, 2011
Around this time last year we told you about the importance of the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9, which all employers have been required to keep on file for their employees since 1986. Form I-9 requires that new hires provide specific documents which establish their right to work lawfully in the U.S. to their new employer within three days of hire. Since taking office, President Obama has directed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to strictly enforce sanctions against employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. That trend continued throughout 2010 and all signs seem to indicate that the same will hold true for 2011.
The hotel industry is closely watched as it bears a reputation for being a hotbed of unlawful employment. Hoteliers should feel 100% confident that their I-9 forms are kept in good order. In the event of a government investigation, you do not want any surprises and ignorance is never an excuse before the law. Possible repercussions for improperly handled or maintained I-9 forms may range from civil penalties of $110 to $1,100 per paperwork 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.
Every employee hired after November 6, 1986 should have an I-9 form on record demonstrating that a good faith effort was made 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 that person's eligibility to work in the United States has not changed. Depending upon the given circumstances, a rehire may be reverified on either Section 3 of his or her original I-9 or on a new form entirely.
Verifying employment eligibility is a complicated task for all businesses but it poses particular difficulties for the hotel industry. As a high-volume business with regular turnover, juggling employment eligibility verification forms can be a deceptively tall order. As we told you last year, taking the time to familiarize oneself with Form I-9 compliance is a worthwhile investment to avoid weighty fines or possible criminal penalties.
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 recently revised M-274 Handbook for Employers is published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is an excellent resource for employers across all industries. We've taken a moment to recap some of the tips and good practices that we shared with you before, followed by even more tips that put you on the path to good compliance:
1. Read and refer to the M-274