Two-Part Series Seminar: Employment Verification Issues for Employers:

 
 

 
Two-Part Series SeminarForm I-9 and E-Verify Training
Employment Verification Issues for Employers:

Presented by
Hector A. Chichoni, Esq., EpsteinBeckerGreen
  
 

Since its inception more than two decades ago, employers have failed to fully comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. As a result, Form I-9 compliance levels among employers are of great concern. With the government cracking down on compliance, employers need to take immediate steps to get their I-9 “houses” in order.

Moreover, on September 14, 2009, Alejandro Mayorkas, head of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services, told reporters that the agency is “taking steps to prepare for the possibility that E-Verify may become mandatory for all employers” adding that “it is our responsibility to be ready should E-Verify ever be required of all employers.”

 

We are conducting a two-part interactive Form I-9 and E-Verify training program to offer hands-on training to ensure the attendees are confident, knowledgeable and capable of managing I-9 and E-Verify compliance.
 
 
WHERE
The Miami City Club
 
200 South Biscayne Boulevard
55th Floor
Miami, Florida 33131
 
 
Part  I
Form I-9 Training
 
Form I-9 training is the first part of the two-part series which includes copyrighted training materials with practical examples along with useful documentation and resource materials. The components of part one, Form I-9 Training, includes:
  • In-depth look at I-9 Completion, Documentation and Receipt Rules.
  • Forensic training for questionable documents.
  • Review internal process for re-verification and notification tracking.
  • Establish an I-9 correction process.
  • Provide self-evaluation and team-based testing.
  • Help you learn how to process the I-9 form correctly;
  • Raise your comfort level in working with the documents and policies involved;
  • Enable your company to ensure the employees are authorized to work and are compliant with I-9 standards;
  • Serve as a quick and easy job aid and reference whenever needed.
  •  
E-Verify training, the second part of the two-part series, will help you get the information you need to properly weigh the pros and cons of the E-Verify system, you will learn what every employer should know about the electronic employment verification system:
  • How federal contractors are troubleshooting E-Verify issues
  • What chances have been made, what problems have been solved, and what problems remain.
  • How the government is increasing its worksite enforcement activity
  • Best practices for avoiding worksite enforcement actions
  • How to find out if your organization is being targeted from an audit, and what agents look for in an audit
  • Your legal recourse if ICE agents arrive on site
  • The potential civil and criminal consequences for employers from an audit
  • Recent government actions to fine employers for immigration violations
  • Your legal recourse if fines are levied against your organization
  • What happens to workers who can't prove they're authorized to work in the U.S.
  • How the government's new audit strategy impacts the current debate on making E-Verify mandatory for all employers              
Part II
 E-Verify Training
Date and Time: Thursday, October 21, 2010, 8:30 am - 10:30 am
Date and Time: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 8:30 am - 10:30 am
 

REGISTRATION FEE
The fee for this event is $25 for each session, or you can purchase both sessions in advance for $35.  This fee includes breakfast, parking and training materials. 
 


 
To register, please .click here

If you have any questions about this briefing, please contact 

Anneliese Garcia, (305) 579-3200, or agarcia@ebglaw.com
 
About EBG: Founded in 1973, EpsteinBeckerGreen is a law firm with approximately 350 lawyers practicing in offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, San Francisco, Stamford and Washington D.C. The Firm’s size, diversity, and as a founding member of the International Lawyers Network (ILN), allow its attorneys to address the needs of both small entrepreneurial ventures and large multinational corporations on a worldwide basis. EpsteinBeckerGreen continues to build and expand its capabilities as a law firm focused on five core practices: Business Law, Health Care and Life Sciences, Labor and Employment, Litigation and Real Estate. For more information on EpsteinBeckerGreen, please visit www.ebglaw.com. For more than three decades, the EpsteinBeckerGreen seminar series has introduced senior executives, general counsel and human resources professionals to cutting-edge issues in nearly every area of business touched by law.
 

 

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ICE Expands Worksite Enforcement Activities in the Southeast

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that it was expanding its worksite enforcement strategy in the Southeastern United States. As part of this strategy, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), the agency within DHS directly responsible for worksite enforcement, indicated that it is issuing Notices of Inspections (“NOIs”) to 180 businesses in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

These NOIs alert the businesses that ICE will be inspecting their Form I-9s and seeking to review voluminous other business records, including a list of current and terminated employees with hire and termination dates; the names, social security numbers and dates of birth of all active employees; quarterly wage and hour reports and/or payroll data on all employees covering the period of inspection; quarterly tax statements; all correspondence with the Social Security Administration (including “No-Match” letters); and more! All of this is an effort by ICE to determine whether the businesses are complying with federal employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. This DHS announcement is the latest in a series of expanding worksite enforcement efforts by the Obama administration. Instead of raids, the Obama administration has focused its efforts on auditing and investigating employers to determine if they are satisfying the Form I-9 requirements and are knowingly or unwittingly employing illegal workers.

Hector Chichoni, the Chair of EBG’s Southeastern Immigration Practice, notes: “this action by ICE underscores what the Immigration Law Group at EBG has been advising clients since the Obama administration took office. Businesses need comprehensive employment verification and related compliance plans in place because the civil and potentially criminal consequences of this enforcement strategy can be severe. Businesses that ignore this important aspect of their operations can face substantial fines that make compliance now not only good corporate citizenship, but also good risk management.”

These ICE inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to enforce employment and immigration laws. The fines for simple Form I-9 violations range from $110 to $1,100 per violation, with the higher range applicable to employers with a higher percentage of mistakes. Employers with large workforces that fail to properly manage the Form I-9 process can face fines of hundreds, or even millions, of dollars. Employers and their managers also can face criminal prosecution if they deliberately neglect their legal responsibilities in this area. This latest ICE action in the Southeast underscores the need for all businesses to review this important aspect of their operations, develop compliance plans that will protect them from this potential liability and have in place crisis management procedures, including access to outside counsel that specializes in this area, in the event that the “ICEman” cometh!

 

The Obama Administration's Agenda for the DOL -- What Employers Need to Know

The following post, authored by my partner Betsy Johnson, should be of interest to all Florida employers.

President Obama just celebrated his first year in office and his Administration has been busy! Employers of all sizes are starting to see the effects of the Obama Administration’s workplace agenda; especially at the Department of Labor (DOL). The watchword for all employers in the wage/hour arena for 2010 is “compliance.”  The DOL is slated to receive a substantial budget increase this year and it is going on a hiring spree to increase the number of investigators and enforcement personnel. 

The DOL’s agenda includes increased audit and enforcement proceedings related to “off the clock” work and the misclassification of employees as “exempt” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In addition, the DOL (in cooperation with the IRS) will focus its audit and enforcement proceeding on employers who misclassify individuals as independent contractors.  Now, more than ever, employers must have programs in place to ensure compliance with the myriad of wage/hour laws and regulations, and implement a clear strategy for handling government audits and enforcement actions. While the thought of conducting a comprehensive payroll practices compliance audit can be daunting, employers can efficiently conduct “spot” audits of particular areas where they may be vulnerable. 

 

As an initial matter, employers should determine who will conduct the audits. Utilizing internal resources such as the Human Resources and/or Payroll Departments and/or the company’s General Counsel will help keep the costs down. However, using internal resources may not guarantee that the results will be protected by the attorney-client privilege should the company become involved in litigation regarding the subject matter of the audit. As such, employers may wish to seek assistance of outside counsel to conduct the audit and analyze the results.

 

The purpose of these “spot” audits is to: 1) identify areas of non-compliance; 2) identify policies, procedures and/or practices that can be improved; 3) develop a plan for improvement; and 4) implement the plan. The areas where most employers are vulnerable to government actions and employee claims in the wage/hour area are:

 

         Overtime calculation and payment

         Off the clock work

         “Donning and doffing” issues

         Classification of employees (exempt v. non-exempt)

         Time keeping

         Recordkeeping

         Proper classification of independent contractors

 

In planning a “spot” audit, employers should determine: 1) the scope and depth of the audit; 2) what data needs to be collected; 3) what documents need to be reviewed; 4) which managers should be interviewed to obtain relevant information; and 5) whether the employees should be surveyed for relevant information. On a cautionary note, if the employer believes there may be too many “skeletons in the closet” that may be exposed in an audit, consideration should be given to retaining outside counsel to assist in the audit so that the process and the results can be protected by the attorney-client privilege.

 

Finally, employers must decide what to do with the results of the audit. Some things to consider are: 1) who will be apprised of the results and how (written or verbal); 2) will the person who conducted the audit make recommendations regarding problem areas; 3) what, if anything, is going to be done about any problems; 4) how should any changes be implemented (a “spin doctor” may be needed); and 5) how is the employer going to address employee questions and challenges.

 

In the short-term, the exercise of conducting internal audits may be viewed as a distraction from an employer’s business purpose. In the long run, however, getting the company’s “house in order” before a government agency knocks on the door will save time, attorneys’ fees and the intangible costs of being embroiled in administrative or civil litigation. Remember the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

USCIS Announces Extension of Form I-9

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced on August 27, 2009, that the federal Office of Management and Budget has approved an extension of the current Form I-9 to August 31, 2012.  As a result, the USCIS has amended the Form I-9 to reflect an updated revision date of August 7, 2009.  This revision date appears in the lower right hand corner of the form. The USCIS has indicated that employers may use the Form I-9 with a revision date of either February 2, 2009 (the prior revision date) or August 7, 2009 (the current revision date).  The Form I-9 is available at the following web site: www.uscis.gov/i-9

Alert: ICE Serves 652 Businesses Nationwide With Notices of Inspection

On July 2, 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) launched a new and bold initiative to audit companies by issuing Notices of Inspection (“NOIs”) to 652 businesses nationwide.

ICE has stated these “audits are not random” and that the businesses were identified based on “leads and information obtained through other investigative means.” These notices are the government’s first step in what could be the beginning of a very lengthy investigation. ICE officers plan to review the I-9 forms and identification documents of all 652 companies. ICE has also stated that those with significant numbers of undocumented workers may be fined. And, if agents believe the businesses “knowingly hired” illegal immigrants or find “a pattern of egregious violations” criminal investigations could be launched. Pat Reilly, ICE’s spokesperson, said that ICE would not “release the names or locations of the businesses that are being audited because of the ongoing investigations” and that the targeted businesses “represent a broad range of industries.”

However, it has been reported that ICE notified 80 companies in California, including three in Los Angeles, which ICE plans to fine because they employ large numbers of people who do not appear to be authorized to work in the U.S. ICE agents had conducted audits on these companies’ records earlier, and in many cases determined that the Social Security numbers listed for employees either did not exist or did not belong to the employees specified.Targeted companies also include businesses in New York, San Antonio, Seattle, and San Diego. ICE has also sent audit notices to 32 companies in Arizona. For a long time the government has been seeking new ways to impose E-Verify on all US employers. I believe the strategy behind these notices is to paint a picture of rampant immigration violations so, come September 2009, Congress will make E-Verify mandatory for every employer. For as much as the government loves E-Verify, it will never be a substitute for immigration reform or stop illegal immigration.


 

Obama Administration's Immigration Approach with Napolitano will Point to Employers

President Obama made it clear that his immigration plan was to “bring people out of the shadows, improve our immigration system, create secure borders, remove incentives to enter illegally and honor our immigrant troops.” However, the Obama administration has not provided any details as to how it is going to accomplish this plan. This has not only created a good amount of speculation, but also a good deal of frustration among U.S. employers. Yet, in spite of lacking details, the Obama has sent out “immigration signals” and employers should be prepared to feel the effects.

The most important of these immigration signals was Secretary Napolitano’s appointment as head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The appointment reveals some of the most basic immigration strategies of the administration’s plan. This is not only part of a well calculated move, but the foundational step necessary to set President Obama’s immigration plan in motion.

Secretary Napolitano is considered a smart and demanding attorney with an intense work habit and a quick grasp for bureaucratic detail. A twice elected Governor of Arizona and a former Attorney General and U.S. attorney, she is not only a pragmatist who signed the toughest state immigration law in the nation, but also a politician with strong enforcement views. She is one of the most experienced state executives in the nation with immigration and one of the very few qualified to handle a massive immigration reform loaded with compliance and enforcement requirements.

She has repeatedly called for a “technology-driven border control” and the penalizing of employers hiring undocumented workers.

Secretary Napolitano indicated that her approach, in terms of immigration raids, will be to closely watch the design of the operations and that the focus will be on “unscrupulous employers” rather than on undocumented workers. She also stated that raids will continue where undocumented workers are present and that she expects to increase the focus on ensuring that employers “of unlawful workers are prosecuted for their violations.” Moreover, Napolitano pledged to increase the focus on criminal punishment for employer violators and to encourage them to work with federal immigration agents to “establish sound compliance programs that prevent unlawful hiring.” She also aims to continue boosting manpower on the borders and focusing on technology, such as ground sensors. At the same time, it is her full intention to enforce these methods in a fair manner across borders, ensuring that the law is applied.

This represents a 180 degree shift from the Bush administration’s approach to immigration enforcement, which sought to penalize undocumented workers, rather than prosecuting employers under the theory that actual convictions were hard to get.

In short, immigration reform, whether in piece-meal or in one whole swap, will be enacted in 2009 or 2010. Employers will continue to be raided, but enforcement actions are likely to conform to those prescribed under immigration law rather than the “hyper-criminalized” actions conducted under the Bush administration with their inefficiencies and social negative effects.

Under Secretary Napolitano, DHS, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and possibly in association with other governmental agencies (i.e. IRS, USDOL, SSA, etc.), the number of government audits and the so called “inspections” will escalate. Technology based programs such as E-verify will rule and could become mandatory for every employer in the U.S. Wise employers will be served well by putting their immigration compliance (i.e. I-9, public access and audit files, etc.) houses in order.
 

USCIS Delays Implementation of Interim Final Rule on Documents Acceptable for Employment Verification

On January 30, 2009, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS")announced that the effective date of the new Form I-9 (Employment Verification Form) has been delayed for 60 days, until April 3, 2009.

The new Form I-9 was scheduled to take effect on February 2, 2009. The comment period on the new form now runs until March 4, 2009. The temporary extension is designed to provide the DHS with an opportunity to further consider the interim final rule: “Documents Acceptable for Employment Verification” which was published by the USCIS on December 17, 2008. The USCIS has also announced that the old Form I-9 should continue to be used until at least March 4, 2009.

All employers and HR personnel should take note.  Once in effect, old versions of the form cannot be used.

Missouri Latest State To Enact E-Verify Requirement

On July 7, 2008, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed a bill, effective January 1, 2009, requiring employers contracting or receiving grants from the state in excess of $5,000  to use E-Verify.  Missouri joins a growing number of states that, in the absence of a federal comprehensive immigration reform act, have chosen to regulate the employment of illegal workers. The Missouri bill shares similarities to other bills enacted in states such as: Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah. However, this bill goes further by requiring employers with state-administered tax credits, tax abatement, or state-administered loans to also use E-verify. The bill also gives Missouri's Attorney General the authority to enforce the act.  Missouri's Attorney General may now demand: 1) employers to provide identification information on their employees; 2) employers to provide identification documents within 15 business days of receiving such a request.  Failing to abide by the request could result in the suspension of a company's applicable local licenses, permits, and exemptions until the documents are supplied, 3) employers to classify its employees correctly (i.e. knowingly classifying an employee as an independent contractor when he/she is not carries fines ranging from $50 to $50,000.)  A contractor will not be liable for the unauthorized employment of an illegal alien if a subcontractor employing the individual provides a sworn affidavit that the employee is authorized to work in the US. Missouri's law does not substitute the federal requirement to complete Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification.

Electronic Employment Verification System ("EEVS") News

This week, the House Immigration Subcommittee will hear comments and discuss the challenges and problems that mandatory nation-wide EEVS program could pose.

EEVS, a deeply flawed program, is the core center of the “SAVE Act.” The SAVE Act  was introduced in Congress in November of 2007 by Reps. Heath Schuler (D-NC) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

The EEVS proposal would require every employer in the United States to verify the employment eligibility of their workers through the EEVS database. More importantly, the EEVS proposal requires both citizens and non-citizens alike to obtain and present newly proposed documents such as a Social Security Card and Driver’s License that are compliant with the Real ID Act in order to work or continue working in the US. In practical terms, it means that everyone in the US would have to obtain “permission” from the government to get a job. Further, EEVS would require every person in America to carry a new and improved biometric Social Security card containing biometric information that could include fingerprints, retina scan and even, DNA. Unfortunately, the hopes of many government officials is that EEVS will serve as a magic solution to undocumented immigration.

Immigration Compliance for Florida Employers

Between February 21 and 22 of 2007 three executives of Rosenbaum-Cunningham International, Inc. (“RCI”), a Florida-based national cleaning contractor, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to harbor illegal aliens for profit. They were also charged with evading payment of federal employment taxes.

The 23-count indictment charged that these individuals operated a cleaning and grounds-maintenance service that contracted with theme restaurant chains and hospitality venues throughout the United States and staffed the cleaning crews with undocumented foreign nationals. According to the indictment, the federal authorities charged the three janitorial company executives of embezzling more than $18.6 million by failing to collect and pay federal income, Social Security, Medicare and federal employment taxes on the wages paid to its workforce, hundreds of illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Haiti. RCI allegedly hired illegal immigrants, paid them in cash and never required them to provide identification or fill out job applications or tax forms.

RCI’s president, vice president and controller were arrested along with more than 200 of the Florida-based company’s employees at 64 locations in 18 states and the District of Columbia, in a sweep by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). The employees were arrested as they were starting or leaving their shifts. According to ICE leadership, the sweep resulted from a 20-month investigation conducted by ICE agents sparked by the arrest of an illegal alien in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

One of the most interesting aspects of this case is that RCI clients (2001-2005) included House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Café, Dave and Busters, Yardhouse, ESPN Zone and China Grill. It appears there is no evidence that any of the companies were complicit. In the mean time, RCI has ceased operations as of February 22, 2007.

Until recently, employers who were targeted for a raid usually faced only civil fines and deportation of their illegal workers. However, since 2006, ICE has focused more and more on enforcing criminal penalties including felony charges that have lead to huge fines and asset seizures. Additionally, employers have been charged with criminal violations such as money laundering, alien harboring, illegal alien employment and wire fraud. The DHS has also stated that it hopes increasing the harshness of the penalties encourages employers to comply with laws against hiring illegal workers.

The years 2006 and 2007 have not only seen an increase in the scope of employer liability, but also an effort by the government to clarify employers’ duties when it comes to resolving discrepancies in an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Specifically, ICE proposed a rule in June 2006 that expanded the notion of constructive knowledge as it relates to an employer’s liability that is found to have hired illegal workers. It also described “safe-harbor” procedures for employers who receive a “no-match letter” from the SSA or DHS.

Related to the notion of constructive knowledge, there appears to be a trend towards seeking employer liability even where its contractors or sub-contractors hire illegal workers. Current regulations state that an employer who knowingly or with reckless disregard contracts to obtain the labor of an unauthorized alien will be considered to have hired the employee. Incredibly, in terms of raids already conducted by ICE, in spite of the many industries targeted by ICE existing in our state (i.e. construction, agriculture, hospitality, retail, etc.) Florida has not been an “active” place. We do not hear much about ICE in Florida. But, just as RCI, simply put, employers should not make the mistake of assuming that ICE will not come and raid them.  Employers should be prepared for when it comes. Our state has too many industries which are the focus of ICE’s interest. Given the focus on employer liability for hiring illegal workers, there are various ways employers can proactively protect themselves against not only government investigations and ensure compliance with potential new laws and regulations, but also from service providers who may be hiring undocumented workers. Employers cannot afford neglecting these important tasks.