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March 25th, 2015 | Sterling

Two Business Owners Get Caught In The I-9 Deep End

Two Business Owners Get caught in the I-9 Deep End  | SterlingBackcheck

Employers are subject to substantial penalties whether or not they knowingly violate employment eligibility laws. While employers who purposefully violate regulations can expect to be caught and penalized, unsuspecting employers that simply have a flawed Form I-9 process can find themselves in a messy situation, entangled in a web of very costly errors. These two cases are evidence that both honest mistakes and intended violation of employment eligibility requirements carry stiff consequences.

Flawed Remote Hiring Process Results in a Six Figure Fine

A Minnesota-based staffing company learned its lesson the hard way when it was audited by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was found to have violated Form I-9 regulations. The audit revealed that the company representative completed 242 employer attestations (Section 2 of Form I-9) using photocopies of identification and without ever seeing the employee. The representative did not physically inspect the documents or compare them to the employee, as required by law. As a result, the company was fined $227,251.75.

This is unfortunately the case for many employers who conduct remote hiring and are not aware of their obligation to physically inspect identification documents and match them to the actual applicant. To prevent the logistical hassle of tracking down a company representative to complete Section 2, you can enlist the help of a third-party provider with remote hiring capabilities. Mobile-enabled solutions and a large network of notaries throughout the United States can keep your organization in compliance with employment eligibility requirements and reduce the Form I-9 processing time.

Small Business Owner Gets House Arrest for Pattern of I-9 Violations

Raymond Scott Vincent, a 47-year-old business owner in Maryland has been sentenced in federal court for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers. Vincent hired three workers even though he knew they were not eligible for employment. Another nine workers had their work status’ expire at some point during the course of their employment, which Vincent was aware of. To avoid raising any red flags, Vincent paid some of the employees in cash to keep them off the books. In total, Vincent employed 12 people who were not authorized to work between January 2009 and June 2013.

Vincent received a hefty sentence including civil penalties for his pattern of hiring unauthorized workers and failing to properly complete Form I-9. His sentence includes:

  • Two days in prison
  • 60 days of house arrest (as part of 18 month probation)
  • 80 hours of community service
  • Paying a fine of $36,000
  • Forfeiting $42,262.60

Civil fines and criminal penalties for violating employment eligibility laws vary based on the number of offenses, a pattern of violations, and the type of violation that has occurred. Since fines are calculated per violation, the larger the company, the more substantial the total fine can be.

The best way to keep your company I-9 compliant is to use a third-party service provider. Form I-9 services are designed to facilitate electronic completion, detect and correct errors, securely store completed forms, and retain them for the required period of time. Many of these services can also convert your existing paper records into digital copies so that you can benefit from one centralized system for all employees.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.