“Do it as if your job depended on it.”
That’s the advice one business law attorney is dispensing to
business owners to underscore the importance of complying with the new federal
I-9 form, which will go into effect on May 8.
I-9 compliance, which many business owners, especially small
business owners, already find difficult, will get even harder when this new form
goes into effect, says Tommy Eden, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks and
Smith, a national law firm representing large and small business employers
throughout the United States.
Three organizations, the Alabama Cooperative Extension
System, Constangy, Brooks and Smith, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Alabama, are partnering to offer free comprehensive online
training to help business owners comply with these new requirements.
The training, titled “Untangling the New Form I-9,” is
available at http://www.aces.edu/events.
For many business owners, especially small business owners,
the stakes couldn’t be higher, says Rosemary Elebash, Alabama director for the National
Federation of Independent Business.
“It’s absolutely critical that employers and employees alike
understand this,” Elebash says. “It’s double the work — two pages instead of
one — but it’s the penalty provisions that are most alarming.”
Business owners who don’t fill out these forms correctly are
likely to be penalized pretty substantially.”
I-9 compliance procedures are an outgrowth of the
Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986, which makes it unlawful for
employers to knowingly hire or continue to employ individuals who are not
legally authorized to work in the United States.
Under the act’s provisions, the burden is on employers to
check and record the eligibility of each employee by completing out an I-9
form. Every employee hired after Nov. 6,
1986, including U.S. citizens, must have a completed I-9 form on file verifying
that they are eligible to work.
Penalties for failing to comply with I-9 requirements
include civil fines as high as $1,100 for each employee whose I-9 form was not
completed, retained or presented properly.
Enforcement of I-9 compliance by the U.S. Immigration andCustoms Enforcement (ICE) has intensified in recent years. Late November, for example, employers in
Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts were assessed fines exceeding $560,000 for
immigration law violations.
Prison sentences have followed more serious violations.
Monetary penalties can run even higher for knowingly hiring
or continuing to employ unauthorized wokers.
First violation fines can total as much $3,200 for each unauthorized
employee, while second violation fines can be as high as $6,500. Third violation fines can exceed $16,000 for
each unauthorized employee.
The comprehensive online training prepared by Eden and
Elebash is designed to help anyone else assigned with hiring employees — human
resources professionals, supervisors and small business owners, for example — understand
all facets of the new I-9 compliance provisions.
“How will this training make your life better as a human
resources professional or small business operator? By helping you anticipate
the most common errors that may occur in the compliance process,” Eden says.
“This training not only introduces you to the forms and all
the supporting documents, but also provides you with step-by-step guidance on
various hiring scenarios.”
While the training should be regarded as educational rather
than legal advice, Eden says it will help business professionals not only gain
a better understanding of how all these forms should be completed but also how
to survive an audit by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to avoid civil
penalties and possibly even criminal charges.
In the case of human resource professionals, this training
may even prove valuable in helping them keep their jobs, Eden says.
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