New employees are almost always required to fill out an I-9 form to verify that they can legally work in the U.S. Unfortunately, many employers get stuck in common problems with I-9 verifications and are hit with fines.
Both I-9 requirements and fines for mistakes are increasing, so it’s time for you to reset your focus and make compliance a majority priority for your organization. Thankfully there are some new ways that today’s technology can help you stay abreast of I-9 changes and ensure that you’re doing your full duty.
The most important piece for many businesses to understand is that fines are on the rise for I-9 errors. Auditors are reviewing more cases each year and compliance analysts and experts feel the trend is only going to continue.
Fines have been on the rise since the 2013 revision of the I-9 form as audits skyrocketed. ICE says it carried out more than 3,100 inspections and audits in 2013, triple its 2009 rate. The agency has made a public pledge to continue to increase these inspections.
Over the past five years, businesses have paid more than $91 million in fines.
It’s now time employers learn the most common errors for I-9 documentation and how best to avoid them. While some practices are simple good-governance rules for HR, there are also new opportunities to introduce checks and verifications through technology, allowing you to ease the burdens on your staff while still conforming to the law.
Last year’s decisions by the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) show consistent errors that businesses make when filling out and filing I-9 forms. Let’s look at the top four errors and see what companies can do to avoid them.
1. Not Filing the I-9
Unfortunately, most employers hit with fines last year seemed to suffer from not filing an I-9 Form—this includes waiting to file until after being served a notice of inspection. Nearly 90% of the cases heard by OCAHO last year involved this issue. This is a basic problem on its outset, but some businesses struggle to file due limited staff or a lack of knowledge about filing requirements. Automating part of your HR systems can help by adding in reminders for I-9 forms and setting these reminders to rules around job descriptions, hire dates and other factors that are easy to identify and track.
2. Back-dating Forms
What’s worse than getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Getting caught lying about it.
Backdating can get a company slammed with fines because you’ve not only filled out your documents wrong but the lying will count as “lacking good faith” and this aggravating factor increases the I-9 penalties being assessed. ICE has become smart about detecting backdating; increasing the likelihood that you’ll get caught.
Your HR professionals know I-9 Forms needs to be signed within three days of the employee’s first day of work and today’s technology is also smart enough to incorporate warnings and notices around these dates. It’s worth investing in services that will give you this reminder and investing in people who’ll pay attention to it.
3. Section 1 Problems
Sometimes things slip through the cracks, and ICE is there to catch it. In 50% of the cases OCAHO handed down decisions for last year, errors were included in Section 1. While the employee is required to fill out Section 1, the employer is still held responsible for mistakes. That means training your staff to look out for errors and adopting electronic systems that can help you catch problems.
According to OCAHO, top Section 1 problems include:
• Not signing the attestation.
• Checking off the wrong number of boxes for an employee’s status. This could be checking no boxes or checking more than one.
• Checking the box for permanent residence or employment authorization but not including an “A” number on the I-9 Form.
4. Document Troubles
Section 2 has also proven to be troublesome for employers because of the many different types of documents available and places to provide the needed information. First and foremost, employers must not only provide the documents supplied by your employee, but you have to properly indicate what documents and provided and fill out all of the relevant data in existing fields. Simply attaching documents isn’t good enough.
Again, using digital forms and verification systems for I-9 and E-Verify can help to ensure you have the correct combination of documents from A or lists B and C. Digital systems can also provide secondary checks of things we often forget to look at, such as the expiration date of driver’s license.
Related to this issue but not necessarily to ICE is the prevalence of discrimination lawsuits that crop up when employers request too many documents for these fields.
Another key point in the I-9 discussion is the growing importance of E-Verify.
E-Verify not only speeds up some of the I-9 process and gives you improved access to authorization lists and information form the Department of Homeland Security, but it’s also on the fast-track to becoming a national standard.
The intersection of E-Verify and the I-9 Forms are exactly where deverus has positioned the upcoming improvements to its Verocity system. By supporting electronic versions of the I-9 forms, employers or employees can input all of their data and documents and then get walked through the E-Verify process.
This gives any business the comfort of properly filing an I-9 — errors are noted during the input process — but also providing an instant authorization in most cases. When authorization isn’t immediate, you’ll see step-by-step prompts to gather the needed additional information.
The goal of deverus is to build you a robust I-9 Forms compliance program that lets new employees know of their requirements and helps HR personnel fill out every form correctly every time.
This broad system also provides you with a protection against discrimination claims because it gives you a chance to verify your commitment to not hiring undocumented workers. By simply providing a statement to that effect before an employee fills out their portion of the I-9 Form, and requiring a single click to indicate they read and are aware of the process, you’re helping to guard yourself against fraud and undue legal action.
Smart digital partners are working everyday to mitigate the risk that businesses face when onboarding new employers. It’s time to choose the right systems to integrate as you do your part in getting America back to work.
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