As of August 1, 2016, all companies are subject to stiffer fines for immigration-related offenses, including paperwork violations on Form I-9. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that penalties have almost doubled those established in 2015.
The increases are a result of an inflation adjustment. The higher penalties should deter violations and level the playing field for responsible employers who must compete with the few who evade the law to gain a cheaper workforce.
How Much This Could Cost
The fine for “first offense willful employment” of each unauthorized employee increased to a minimum of $539 - $4,313 (compared to $375 – $3,200 in 2015). The penalty for subsequent offenses is $6,469 – $21,563. The fine for I-9 paperwork violations, which includes dates beyond the allowed time for completion, and missing or incorrect fields, is now $216 - $2,156 per form (up from $110 - $1,100 in 2015).
These amounts were effective August 1, 2016, and apply to violations occurring after November 2, 2015.
Cost Beyond Dollars
The higher fines are especially crippling for small to mid-size companies, but all companies are subject to audits. The industries most vulnerable to audits are food processing, transportation, and staffing.
Aside from the cost, the resulting negative publicity can be devastating for any size business. Case in point: a California-based events management company was fined over $600,000 last year for multiple violations on I-9 forms. A fine that high certainly generates damaging press.
How to Avoid Penalties
Companies who wish to avoid costly penalties and bad publicity should take the I-9 form very seriously. You should either perform an internal audit of your I-9 Standard Operating Procedure manuals or have an outside audit for an extra level of assurance. Should you run into problems after a DOJ audit, your records of training and audits (internal or external) will provide evidence of good faith.
If you work with us, our processes are designed to ensure that you do not have fines related to paperwork violations. Contact us for more information on compliance or training. We are happy to help.