The Department of Homeland Security remains focused on corporate compliance with immigration regulations to ensure that companies are maintaining proper H1b files, I-9 forms and identifying those documents necessary in order to employ eligible employees. Compliance has become increasingly complex, where employers need to balance corporate compliance requirements with the possibility of employment discrimination based on national origin.
Investigations are initiated in several different ways, including through “whistleblowers”, the attorney generals’ offices, federal investigations in worksite enforcements, department of labor task forces, and employment discrimination claims. The Department has recently levied substantial fines against companies that fail to comply with labor laws and immigration laws. The Department has become increasingly determined to investigate matters of corporate compliance and complete I-9 audits.
Hiring an employee triggers many obligations under U.S. law. For example, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance and must also register with the state agency that administers the unemployment insurance program in their jurisdiction. An issue that may not be as readily apparent to employers is compliance with U.S. immigration law. Of particular importance are the provisions that require employers to verify their employee’s identity and also to establish that a worker is eligible to work in the United States. Other provisions also prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their national origin, citizenship, or immigration status, or hire, recruit for a fee, or refer individuals the employer is aware are unauthorized to work in the United States.
Non-compliance with I-9 requirements can result in serious sanctions, including civil fines, criminal penalties, exclusion from government contracts, or court orders requiring payment of back pay or the hiring of a particular individual. As a result, it is extremely important for employers to discuss their hiring practices with an experienced lawyer. Some of the penalties associated with I-9 compliance are detailed below. For specific information about your case, contact our office today to talk to an experienced Chicago immigration attorney.
If USCIS believes that your company has violated I-9 requirements, they can impose harsh civil and even criminal penalties. For example, civil sanctions can be imposed as follows for knowingly hiring or continuously employing an unauthorized individual:
There are also costly fines imposed for participating in any type of document fraud, not fulfilling I-9 paperwork requirements, engaging in unlawful discrimination against a work-authorized individual, or requesting an indemnity bond. In addition, if you are suspected of engaging the continuing practice of hiring or recruiting unauthorized workers, you could be charged in criminal court. Penalties for convictions can include up to a $3,000 fine per worker as well as up to six months in federal prison.
As you can see, USCIS authorities take I-9 violations very seriously. Because of the potentially harsh penalties, you want to always have an experienced immigration attorney ensuring you are in full compliance with I-9 requirements. Furthermore, you should immediately seek legal assistance if you have been accused of violating I-9.
Employers who violate U.S. immigration law during the hiring process or at other times during the course of employment are subject to significant sanctions that could have an impact on the overall success of their business. Consequently, all employers should discuss their employment practices with an attorney familiar with United States immigration law as it applies to workers. For more than 40 years, the I-9 compliance lawyers of Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC have been helping employers and employees navigate issues related to immigration. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 312-332-2550.
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