Increase in Penalties for Employment Eligibility Form I-9 Violations


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Increases in enforcement for the Immigration Reform and Control Act violations affect employees that work as non-home office workers. Many of these employees may or may not have signed an I-9, but when the federal government checks, these issues could lead to fines and other penalties when the worker has not filed the proper paperwork with the company.

Some new employees of a company sign I-9 tax and employment forms with a business. When the government checks for these forms, there are often inspections that turn up workers that have been on payroll without filling out the proper documentation. Some of these persons are immigrants and others are employees that may come into the office or work from home. To remain within these laws, the company must retain I-9 documentation for at least three years after the worker has left the business. For employee verification, identification and eligibility of certain benefits and similar concerns, the Employee Eligibility Verification I-9 form is used.

Employers are provided with a three-day grace period to supply these I-9s after the Notice of Inspection has been initiated. Supporting documentation is needed from the employer, and this could include payroll paperwork, the list of current employees working for the company, Articles of Incorporation and even business licenses in the corresponding state. If there is any suspected issue, the agents or auditors will conduct an inspection of these I-9s to ensure the company is within compliance. However, if any violations have been discovered, the employer is given a ten-business day period to ensure corrections are made.

Penalties for I-9 Violations

Violations discovered with companies may lead to a full-blown investigation. Once this occurs, it is likely that the agency may penalize the business. After the ten-business day period has passed, the employer is pushed to provide documentation about the I-9 information. When unauthorized workers have been hired knowingly or are continually employed without authorization, the company is required to cease these activities. The employer must remove employees that are working for the business illegally. Fines are standard, and depending on how severe the issues is, the employer may face criminal charges. If the company continues these actions even after the first offense, the owner or business may lose the professional license. This could lead to the owner closing the doors.

Penalties for losing a license or continued violations may cause a lack of future contracts with the government, and refusal of other benefits provided by the government. Employee violations could incur anywhere from almost $400 to about $16,000 for each violation revealed. Those found to repeat these actions are generally charged the greater amount. Practical offenses, which usually arise when I-9 forms are not provided, could incur just over $100 to as much as $1100 for every offense. Some factors that could lessen these amounts include good faith in complying with regulations, the size of the company, the degree of violation charged, if there are unauthorized workers and any previous offenses on the record.

Increases in Penalties and Further Violations

The possibility that penalties may be increased for violations that have been discovered is greater when there is already a history of offenses found. Additional fines and penalties may be incurred when additional factors are revealed. This may include suspect documents where I-9 forms are incorrectly completed, discrepancies have been discovered within the company. This may involve eligibility of workers undetermined. Technical violations may exist along with or instead of procedural failures. A notice of intent to fine the company is generally issued after these problems have not been corrected or the documentation has not been supplied.

Penalties Explained

Knowingly hiring or continuing to violate these policies and procedures is unlawful and may lead to both fines and criminal charges, but the fines may increase based on the factors involved. Known hire amounts, number of employees in violation and the number of violations previously incurred increase the amount in fines. This is the reason the dollar amount is so wide. There is a table provided by the agency for companies and other business owners to review for I-9 violations. Substantive and technical violations usually do not increase over $1100.

Legal Assistance with I-9 Form Violations

To adhere to the laws and prevent these penalties from occurring, a lawyer should be contacted to ensure the valid processes are adhered to within the business. If a warning has been issued, the legal representative may help in organizing documentation and ensuring the right files have been supplied to officials.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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