Employers are required to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. This is done by the employer and employee completing a Form I-9. In fact, we have probably all had to fill out a Form I-9 at one point or another in our careers. Likely, we did not pay much attention to the document and simply viewed it as another small paperwork hassle.
However, there can be big problems for employers who take this attitude as an incorrectly completed Form I-9 can lead to substantial penalties. Many employers mistakenly believe that penalties are only assessed to employers who hire undocumented workers and so they do not take the time to make sure the I-9 is completely and correct filled out. They are often shocked to discover that fines can be assessed regardless of whether or not the employee is legally able to work in the United States.
For example, ICE recently fined a small New York company several thousand dollars because the company did not fill out Form I-9’s within three days of hiring some of its employees. All of the employees were authorized to work in the United States legally. The company was further fined because some of the Form I-9’s had not been fully completed. Again, all of the employees were legally authorized to work in the United States; the employer simply skipped over some required fields in the form.
In short, the Form I-9 is a little document that can have some very big consequences. Employers need to ensure that their human resource departments are adequately prepared and trained in how to correctly complete the Form as an incorrectly completed Form I-9 is a large liability despite the fact that the employee may be authorized to work in the United States.