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Archive for the ‘DOJ’ Category

Penalties for I-9 Violations: What you need to know

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

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The DOJ announced in August 2016 that it was making significant increases to the schedule of fines imposed for various violations including those associated with compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”) imposed sanctions on employers; namely:

Form I-9 Paperwork Violations:
Previous fine per Form I-9 violation: $110 to $1,100
Fine effective August 1, 2016 per Form I-9 Violation: $216 to $2,126

Unlawful Employment of Unauthorized Workers:
First Offense
Previous fine, per worker: $375 to $3,200
Fine effective August 1,2016 per worker: $539 to $4,313
Second Offense
Previous fine per worker: $3,200 to $6,500
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $4,313 to $10,781
Subsequent Offenses
Previous fine, per worker: $4,300 to $16,000
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $6,469 to $21,563

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices
First Order
Previous fine, per worker: $375 to $3,200
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $445 to $3,563 (however repeat offenders could face new maximum penalty of $21,563 per worker.)

These fines also increase per subsequent order and frequent offenders may face a maximum fine of $17,816 per worker.

As reported in one of our previous blog posts concerning employment verification under a Trump Administration:

Considering employment draws immigrants to the United States, it is likely that we will see stricter enforcement of the Form I-9 verification process under Trump’s presidency.  Starting next year, there will likely be more ICE officers and immigration judges hired to expedite cases.  This increase in staff may lead to an increase in the number of worksite inspections for I-9 compliance.  It is also possible that there will be an increase in penalties and fines for any violations uncovered.  Therefore, it is important for employer’s to ensure that their paperwork, policies, and practices are in order in case of an audit.  Given that Trump may overturn President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), employers also need to be aware of which of their current foreign-born employees may become immediately undocumented and take proper action.

Trump has consistently applauded the E-Verify process for its systematic ability to filter out unauthorized employment.  In his position paper on immigration, he would mandate that the E-Verify process be used across the U.S.  Although, Trump will likely meet the same resistance as Congress has in the past, when it tried and failed several times to implement mandatory E-Verify.  That being true, Trump may still be able to strengthen or increase the program through unilateral executive orders.

DOJ issues interim final rule increasing fines 35-96% for employing unauthorized workers

Friday, July 8th, 2016

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This rule implements as an inflation adjustment fines for employing unauthorized workers for Form I-9 paperwork violations, and for immigration-related discrimination. These new fines increase the penalties from 35% to 96% depending on the nature and severity of the violation.

We encourage you to review your policies, procedures and your Form I-9 inventory.  Remember, the key to defending any employment related investigation is to evidence that there is and has been a consistent pattern of responsible, good faith effort on the part of the employer in establishing a compliant workforce.

Refer here for the details.

 

Recent DOJ Worksite Enforcement Settlements that Shed Light on Form I-9 Employer Compliance

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

One group of customers standing on a red target bullseye, with magnifying glass hovering above it

Plain and simple, failing to comply with IRCA’s I-9 rules have, and are continuing at a rapid rate, to result in significant fines, loss of access to government contracts, an onslaught of negative publicity, business closure, criminal penalties and even imprisonment.  Here are a few examples of recently settled cases in August 2015:

1) Creating discriminatory barriers for immigrants who have permission to work in the United States, $165 civil penalty with $50K in back pay:
http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-discrimination-claim-against-louisiana-crane-construction

2) Requiring non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility, $200K civil penalty: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-immigration-related-discrimination-claim-against-nebraska-based

3) City of Eugene, OR improperly restricted law enforcement positions to U.S. citizens at the time of hire, even though no law, regulation, executive order or government contract authorized such a restriction. must pay a civil penalty, train its employees about the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department for a period of three years!
http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-settles-citizenship-discrimination-claim-against-city-eugene-oregon

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Immigration Compliance Group provides US inbound immigration services to individuals and employers throughout the USA and abroad. We specialize in business immigration and have a depth of experience in the IT, healthcare, arts, entertainment and sports industries, amongst others. Our services include complex business visas for investors, multinational managers, skilled professionals, outstanding individuals of high achievement (O-1, P visas, EB-1 and EB-2 Exceptional Ability cases) and PERM Labor Certification.  We additionally provide employer compliance consulting services on proper I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) management, auditing, training, and work with our clients to develop a culture of immigration compliance. Our door is open for new clients — we extend a 20% discount on the first case with our firm.  Contact us at info@immigationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.

How to Contest an I-9 Notice of Intent to Fine (NOF)

Monday, November 11th, 2013

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While DHS/ICE continues to issue Notices of Intent to Fine (NOFs) at an unprecedented rate for Form I-9 related infractions, this is yet another reminder that you can choose to pay the fine or you can contest the fine and file for a  hearing (within 30 days of receipt of the NOF) before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who handles cases related to employer sanctions, document fraud and unfair immigration-related employment practices.  OCAHO has more than proven that they are willing to reassess and lower fees in just about every case in recent months.

Note that many employer sanctions cases never proceed to the hearing stage because either the parties reach a settlement with the approval of the ALJ, or the ALJ resolves a case through a prehearing ruling.

We recommend that your first step in the process be to retain experienced representation that specializes in the practice area of employer compliance to guide you step by step through the process – don’t attempt to go this alone. The next step is to understand the process that has been summarized very efficiently in the recent Fact Sheet that we refer to here

Should you have any questions or wish to become a client of our office, please contact us or refer to our services & solutions page.

 

 

 

I-9 News: ICE Issues Guidance on Evaluating Electronic I-9 Systems During an Audit

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

For electronic I-9 users, questions have swirled around what exactly are you required  to  produce within 72-hours in the event of a government audit, and what standards will ICE use to evaluate I-9 software?

Do you print out all your I-9 forms?  Will ICE agents conduct the audit on your I-9 electronic system without printouts?  Will your system pass the ICE test?  For the answers to these questions, employers have been entirely at the mercy of the particular ICE agent conducting the audit investigation.

On July 22, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule relating to signatures and storage of electronic Form I-9’s that went into effect August 23, 2010 (see our previous post).  However,  we have all been waiting on regulations concerning this very topic, particularly in light of the huge uptick in ICE I-9 audits in the last few years creating a very uncertain climate for employers, as well as recent changes to E-Verify, and concerns over very severe consequences for non-compliance.

The new Memorandum provides guidance to Homeland Security Investigative (HSI) Agents and field offices, effective August 23, 2012, concerning how to evaluate electronically generated and stored I-9 records during an audit and the minimum standards for electronic audit trail requirements for use in establishing civil fines.

Let’s summarize what ICE agents will expect from employers who are using an electronic I-9 system at the onset of an investigative audit:

1)      Audit Trails:  Whenever an electronic I-9 form is created, completed, updated,  modified, altered or corrected – a  secure and permanent record must be created (audit trail) that establishes the date accessed, who accessed it and what action was taken.

2)      Software Provider Information:  Upon service of an NOI (Notice of Inspection), special agents or auditors will request the name of the software  product being utilized and any internal business practices and protocols related to the generation of, use of, storage of, security of and inspection and quality assurance programs for the electronically generated I-9 Form.

3)      Indexing System:  The employer will also be asked to provide the indexing system identifying how the electronic information contained in the I-9 form is linked to each employee and documentation of the system used to capture the electronic signature, including the identity and attestation of the individual electronically signing  the form.

4)      Auditors will Request at least one printed, completed I-9 form to ensure compliance with the regulation.  Your system should permit you to download a PDF version of the I-9 form that syncs up with the required information on the actual fields of the I-9 form.

5)      Lastly, auditors will request access to the system for a demonstration of the generation of an electronic I-9 form.

Once it’s determined by the agents that the audit trails are in compliance, the auditors will be referring to the flow chart attached to the Memorandum (see link at the end of the post) and audit trail that illustrates the minimum acceptable standards (know that the auditors can request to see additional system data and documentation) of electronically generated I-9 forms.

We recommend that you discuss this Memorandum very specifically with your HR department, your I-9 electronic vendor to ensure that they comply with the regulations, and that you update  your standard  operating procedures to reflect  compliance with these new regulations.  We link to the Memorandum here

Please refer to our list of compliance services and solutions as well as our Employer Resource Center at www.I-9Audits.com  If you are a member of LinkedIn, you might wish to check out our I-9/E-Verify: Smart Solutions for Employers group.

Should you wish to consult with us, email info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call to speak with one of our immigration professionals 562 612.3996.

 

 

 

E-Verify and TNC Resolution

Friday, September 28th, 2012

The OSC announced today that they had reached an agreement with a janitorial and facilities management company in Florida that was fined for mishandling the TNC process with the employee.  The employer was fined $8800 (back pay and civil penalties) and had to agree to training by the Justice Department on the anti-discrimination provision and training by the Department of Homeland Security on proper E-Verify procedures.

It is imperative that you follow appropriate TNC procedures and supply your employees with the required documentation so that they can resolve TNC issues.  Sit down with them, show them the information that you input into E-Verify and make sure that it’s accurate.  Provide them with the appropriate  TNC notice and  SSA or DHS referral letter.  Here is an excellent training video that we recommend you use as a tool in your organization.

Check out our employer resource center here:  www.I-9Audits.com and our services and solutions here:  www-employer-compliance.com.   Stay informed and sign up to receive our information.

Enforcement Seesaw: Financial v. Immigration Violations | Immigration Compliance Group News

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

The biggest  names in banking, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, MF Global, Countrywide, and Chase have been subject to financial misconduct investigations for imprudently squandering hundreds of millions of dollars. Last week the Justice Department made the unfortunate announcement that Goldman Sachs would not be charged for its infamous trades.  Yet over the past few years, despite the devastating impact hedging bad debt has done to our economy, virtually no criminal or civil penalties have ensued. Economists and legal analysts have a range of theories attempting to explain how crimes of “greed” go virtually unpunished; one plausible explanation is we are all to blame: investors, bankers, consumers, government and regulators all contribute to the degradation of our banking system. The SEC has become somewhat of a paper tiger launching costly and intricate investigations resulting in piles of reports that ultimately assign no guilt.

Conversely, ICE investigations almost invariably result in hefty civil and even criminal fines. Deportation raids and I-9 audits are typically swift and allow few of the procedural processes that SEC, Department of Treasury, or Department of Labor investigations require. Over the past few years, there have been record numbers in both deportations and employer sanctions issued by ICE and the USCIS. Unlike greed, failure to maintain a lawful workforce endures the cold chill of ICE.

Shockingly, the public reaction to the financial crisis has been fractured and highly politicized. Remember the Tea Party and Occupy movements? Alternatively, punishing companies employing immigrant workers has found a stronghold in national politics. While it is unjustifiable to violate any law of the United States, it is alarming that those who protest against the corruption of financial institutions are considered extremists, but those who protest against hiring immigrants are nationalists? It is possible that the simpler the crime the harsher the time explains this phenomenon. Americans don’t understand how billions of dollars could disappear from the banks they entrusted their life-savings to; but can easily conceptualize how an immigrant workforce may under-cut “American” employment.

As business owners, violating simple duties like Form I-9 compliance and employment verification through E-Verify may result in the most damaging penalties. There are no congressional investigations, lengthy judicial proceedings, or public sentiment to lessen the blow of an ICE audit. In light of our current social political environment it would be a prudent investment to seek the advice of immigration professionals to proactively prepare for an immigration audit. For more information contact one of our immigration professionals at info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.

 

 

Undercover Boss: Preventative Medicine for Businesses | Immigration Compliance Group

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

By: Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

One of my favorite television shows is Undercover Boss. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the premise is: a CEO/President takes on a disguise to go undercover within their own business to find ways to (1) become more successful and (2) reward hardworking employees. Obviously, there is an essential element of Hollywood magic that prevents most of us from going “undercover” within our own business; but the lessons learned from this show are no less valuable.

Every episode begins with a slightly troubled, but optimistic executive. They instruct their trusted board of directors that they will be resigning from the company to go undercover as an employee over a week’s time in various lower levels of the company, entry-level to management. The goal is to see their business from a fresh perspective. A series of uncomfortable and often illegal encounters ensue where CEOs face discrimination, harassment and even get fired by their own employees. At the end of the hour-long television program, CEOs reward key employees and have “new and improved tools” to develop successful business practices.

There is a better way for your business to experience the same fresh perspective without shaving your head and slapping on a boar’s hair mustache; it’s called an audit. Yes the feared “audit” is most commonly associated with frightful agencies like the IRS and ICE. Yet, Undercover Boss is simply Hollywood’s version of a voluntary audit. In order to become more successful, discovering discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination within your own business is necessary. The alphabet agencies (ICE, IRS, DOJ, DOL) insist that companies perform annual audits to comply with a multitude of legal formalities. Not only will audits improve business efficiencies and reveal valuable employees, but it will also save your company thousands of dollars for failing a government ICE initiated audit.

The Immigration Compliance Group has years of auditing and consulting experience and a touch of Hollywood magic! Before you invest in your own set of wigs and costumes, contact one of our immigration professionals to discuss I-9 compliance and workforce related issues. Discover how audit prevention and a fresh set of eyes can improve your business.  Contact us for support in planning and implementing legally sound solutions to protect your company’s future:  562 612.3996 | info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com.

Link up with us in our group, I-9/E-Verify:  Smart Solutions for Employers and stay informed:   http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=4137860

I-9 Compliance: Too Much To Ask?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

In the USDOJ published decision United States v. Four Seasons Earthworks, ICE made it clear that with respect to form I-9 compliance, late is not any better than never. Four Seasons failed to pass an ICE audit that found incomplete form I-9 List A and List C information. The company asserted they obtained every employee’s social security number and maintained supporting documents (like military IDs and birth certificates) necessary to verify employment eligibility. ICE’s response was terse, “Late production nevertheless does not absolve the respondent from liability.”

Securing qualified employees can be stressful. Once a worthy recruit is hired, employers may be anxious to have the new-hire begin working even before they secure the required documentation to complete the I-9 form. Improper documentation constitutes a violation under the INA. In it’s investigation of Four Seasons Earthworks, the ICE Forensic Auditor calculated penalties based upon the following formula:

 Number of Violations divided by the total number of current & former employees up to inspection date = % of base fine

Additionally, 5% increases for bad-faith or serious violations are tacked on to penalties. The number of undocumented workers, the size of a business, and previous violations are also considerations that increase penalties.

Thankfully, an employer’s good faith attempt to comply with obligations can influence a penalty reduction. ICE views hiring violations on a continuum, recognizing violations vary in severity. If your company finds itself in a similar situation with employees who are not properly documented, hiring immigration compliance professionals may greatly reduce your chances of incurring audit-initiated penalties. Contact us for support in planning and implementing legally sound solutions to protect your company’s future:  562 612.3996 | info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com.

 

 

One Mission: Preventing Citizenship Discrimination, The OSC | I-9/E-Verify News

Friday, June 8th, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

After the Department of Justice and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) publicized the current charges against the Tuscany Suites and Casino in Las Vegas, I consulted a staff attorney at the OSC to inquire how prudent businesses can avoid citizenship discrimination litigation altogether. The answer, as you might imagine, focused on prevention.

The OSC is charged with prosecuting unlawful employment practices of discrimination related to immigration based upon citizenship status, nationality, and the appearance of “foreignness.” Labor laws protect both U.S. Citizens and Non-Citizen workers. OSC investigators receive leads from employee victims of discrimination or through their tip hotline. Additionally, the OSC fields general questions and assists businesses with developing fair labor practices.

After the OSC investigates alleged discriminatory practices, if there is reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred, charges will be filed against an employer. Employers should seek legal professional assistance to develop hiring practices that prevent discrimination and foreclose on any discretionary hiring methods that constitute “reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred,” such as

  1. Selectively requesting additional documents from applicants who appear foreign
  2. Exceeding Form I-9 identification instructions
  3. Improper inquiry into employee’s visa status

Moreover, an injured party may bring an additional civil action against the employer. While the nature and severity of the charges will determine the weight of penalties the OSC will charge an employer, pre-trial settlement can be accomplished by satisfying claims through:

  1. Issuing Back Pay
  2. Reinstatement of discharged employee
  3. Hiring employees
  4. Injunctions
  5. Training management and staff
  6. Monitoring labor law compliance
  7. Paying Fines for discriminatory practices

The OSC is adamant that they run a transparent agency, utilizing their website to issue press releases regarding claim settlements. Case resolution is available to the public and is a good indicator of the severity of fines associated with discriminatory practices.

A settlement in May between the OSC and Imagine Schools, posted online fined the school:

  • $600 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Treasury
  • $20,169 in back pay to the employee with interest and fees
  • Mandatory employee training over the next 18 months
  • Ongoing access to company records by the agency to monitor future compliance

Because the OSC has a wealth of resources dedicated to the single mission of preventing discrimination related to citizenship status, employers must eradicate discriminatory hiring practices to avoid penalties and fees. Our office has a wealth of experience in developing industry specific best practices to help your company prevent workplace discrimination. To protect your business and your employees please contact one of our immigration professionals at info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.