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Even Diligent Companies Trip on I-9s

September 10, 2019
 
A recent AIM HR Solutions I-9 audit reminded us that even a diligent company can get tripped up. 
 
The company maintained their files regularly, had an I-9 for every employee who required one and even produced a “tickler” file for those I-9’s that had documentation with an expiration date. But managers suspected that some of the Social Security Cards presented during the new hire process might actually be problematic, so, after a discussion of I-9 issues at an Aim HR Roundtable, they asked us to conduct an audit.
 
We worked with the company to correct some documentation issues. It was a vivid example of the fact that even the most proactive companies sometimes “don’t know what they don’t know” when attempting to comply. 
 
It is common for our audit process to uncover items such as failing to follow a basic premise of the employer section of the form – if a List A document is presented, a document from List B or C is not required and should not be documented.   This would be an example of what the federal government may even consider document abuse.
 
And from the government’s point of view, if it appeared the only document abuse was occurring with people who had certain ethnic surnames, that would invite a potential discrimination investigation.
 
Other, seemingly small errors are commonplace.  For example, in section 1, (the employee’s section) all spaces on the form must be filled in either with the appropriate information or “N/A”.  
 
And although making photocopies of I-9 documentation is not required, it may be done if the company so chooses.  However, if a company does decide take photocopies it must be done for every employee.  Failure to do so could result in charges of discrimination. If the company wishes to change its photocopying practices, it should prepare a memo explaining that it is changing its photocopying practice as of that date going forward and include that in the I-9 file.
 
If you decide to have an outside reviewer audit your company, it helps if you’ve stored all I-9s together in one binder, allowing quick and easy access.  And be completely transparent about your processes.  Help the auditor fully understand your approach and avoid delays.  
 
The most important thing to understand is that proactive, voluntary audits display a willingness to comply with government requirements - an important “good faith” factor should your company be audited by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 
 
This is all the more important because I-9 requirements have evolved over the years.  For example, the current I-9 form expired on August 31 of this year. While the USCIS has not issued a new I-9 form yet, we anticipate one will be coming out in the very near future. Employers should be attentive to the new form’s arrival as it may well impact future I-9 documentation procedures.
Final thoughts 
 
What can HR departments do to stay out of hot water?
  • Limit the number of people responsible for overseeing the completion of the I-9 process. 
  • Follow the instructions on the I-9 form precisely as written. (Employees in section 1 and employers in section 2 and 3)
  • Stay current with form changes and regulation requirements – go to www.uscis.gov/i-9-central for more information.
  • Make certain senior leadership understands the important nature of this process and the impact failure to meet the regulations might have on the business.
  • Use tickler files to be certain your company stays on top of expiring documents that must be reverified.
  • Destroy out of date I-9s (employees who are no longer working for the company beyond the timeframe required to maintain an I-9). The formula is three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of separation, whichever is later.
  • Remember that employers do not need to have an I-9 for any employee hired prior to November 6, 1986. Every other employee must have an I-9 from the time they first began working for your company.
  • Audit.
AIM HR Solutions has provided I-9 audit services to a variety of companies and industries to help them make certain they are compliant with all federal agency requirements.  For more information about our I-9 Audit  services please contact Beth Yohai at Byohai@aimhrsolutions.com
 
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR related issue may call the AIM employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.
 
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