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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. IER Stays Busy Under Its New Name

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    On January 18, 2017, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) changed its name to Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The newly – named government agency has been busy in its first months of existence.

    Since January 18, 2017, the IER has entered into seven settlement agreements and collected over $300,000 in penalties and $75,000 in backpay.

    Besides these settlement agreements, IER has issued 11 Letters of Resolution to employers. IER issues a Letter of Resolution when after an investigation of a charge, there is insufficient evidence of a violation of the anti-discrimination provision, but there is evidence of the employer having deficiencies in their I-9 form and/or E-Verify compliance. Letters of Resolution may also be issued when an employer quickly resolves an issue by hiring or reinstating the individual in question with backpay. In resolving these investigations, employer often agree to participate in IER-sponsored training and to ensure their Human Resources Staff becomes better trained on I-9 and E-Verify compliance.
  2. Missing Deadline for Providing I-9s to ICE is Costly

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    OCAHO’s recent decision in U.S. v. Alpine Staffing, Inc., 12 OCAHO no. 1303 (May 2017), demonstrates how untimely presentation of I-9 forms can be costly to an employer.

    Alpine Staffing is a small staffing company in Minnesota. It received a Notice of Inspection (NOI) on August 23, 2013 informing the company that it needed to present all of its I-9 forms for current employees and former employees for the past 2 years by August 29, 2013. On that date, Alpine Staffing delivered many I-9 forms to ICE. The following day Alpine Staffing discovered 271 additional I-9 forms. It immediately delivered the additional I-9 forms to ICE. On October 1, 2013, the company discovered another 39 Forms I-9 and thereafter delivered those to ICE.

    After a review of the I-9 forms, ICE issued a Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) and then a Complaint which alleged in Court I – failure to timely present or prepare 345 Forms I-9 and Court II – company failed to ensure 132 employees properly completed Section 1 of the I-9 form and/or the company failed to properly complete sections 2 or 3 of the I-9 forms. ICE sought $367,000 in penalties.

    Alpine Staffing’s principal defense was it was unaware of a specific deadline for presentation of I-9 forms to ICE. However, this defense was belied by the fact that they presented numerous I-9 forms on August 29, 2013, the date that ICE stated the I-9 forms were due. Thus, OCAHO found all I-9 forms delivered after August 29, 2013 were untimely presented.

    OCAHO affirmed ICE’s assessment of $770 per I-9 form for the 34 instances of failure to prepare an I-9 form for those employees. However, OCAHO gave Alpine Staffing a break on the untimely presented I-9 forms. For those presented a day late, OCAHO set a penalty of $500 each, rather than $770. For those I-9 forms delivered at a later date, OCAHO set a penalty of $600 each, rather than $770. Overall, the penalty assessed for the failure to prepare or untimely present I-9 forms was set at $185,000. ICE had sought $256,000. Concerning the 130 Court II violations, OCHAO reduced the penalty from $770 to $700 per I-9 violation. Overall, OCAHO assessed penalties of $276,000. Thus, Alpine Staffing received a reduction of about 25% in penalties.

    This decision shows the importance of locating and providing all I-9 forms covered by the NOI by the deadline. The company’s error appears to be caused by the fact that their I-9 forms were not kept in one location. It is certainly best to keep all a company’s I-9 forms in one location at the company’s facility.

  3. Year in Review: 2016 OCAHO Decisions

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    No employer wants to receive the dreaded “Notice of Intent to Fine” (NIF) in connection with an audit of their I-9 forms. Dealing with an I-9 inspection alone is a costly affair, but the NIF can be downright crippling – particularly for small businesses. Fortunately, employers can appeal an adverse I-9 decision by requesting a hearing with the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), an administrative court that reviews employer sanctions cases under §274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

    Although OCAHO decisions adjudicating I-9 penalties have leveled off in the past few years, it is anticipated there will be many more decisions in future years as the number of Form I-9 inspections is on the rise in the Trump administration and, as shown below, employers continue to obtain significant decreases of I-9 penalties at OCAHO.

    In calendar year 2016, OCAHO issued 16 substantive decisions against employers in I-9 penalty cases. For a few employers, there were two or more decisions concerning substantive issues before the court reached a decision on the amount of the I-9 penalties. The number of cases is a slight increase from 2015, when there were 13 decisions but still much lower than the 30 decisions issued in 2013.
    For remainder of article go to LawLogix website where full article is published - https://www.lawlogix.com/the-year-in...sions-in-2016/.
  4. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Florida Company

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    The Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, reached an agreement with Brickell Financial Services Motor Club, Inc., d/b/a Road America Motor Club, Inc. (Road America), headquartered in Miami, Florida. The settlement resolves the IER’s investigation into whether the company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants when verifying their work authorization.

    The IER concluded, based on its investigation, that Road America routinely requested that lawful permanent residents show their Permanent Resident Cards to prove their work authorization but did not request specific documents from U.S. citizens. The investigation further revealed that Road America required lawful permanent resident employees to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards expired, even though federal rules prohibit this practice. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to unnecessary documentary demands based on the employees’ citizenship or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Road America will pay a civil penalty of $34,200 and pay $1,044 to compensate a worker who lost wages due to its unfair documentary practices. Road America has also agreed to post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, train their human resources personnel, and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.

    Unfortunately, the errors made by Road America are common among many employers. A good immigration training program could avoid these mistakes.
  5. ICE’s Failure to Establish Hire and Termination Dates Leads to Dismissal of Some Claims

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Although the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) found Metropolitan Enterprises committed 189 violations and were fined $151,200, it could have been worse as OCAHO dismissed 20 allegations for the failure of ICE to establish employment during the audited period. U.S. v. Metropolitan Enterprises, Inc., 12 OCAHO no. 1297 (March 2017).

    The case started in the usual way with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serving a Notice of Inspection (NOI), seeking I-9 forms for current and terminated employees for a two-year period. Nine months later, ICE issued a Notice of Intent to Fine with Count I alleging 156 violations for various errors in completion of the I-9 forms – no employee signature, no employer signature, blank section 2, and no status box checked, and Count II – failure to prepare/present 53 Form I-9s.

    ICE sought a penalty of $195,649 based upon a baseline penalty of $935 (over 50% of the I-9 forms were in error). It aggravated the penalty by 5% for the seriousness of the violation and mitigated the penalty by 5% for good faith. ICE also alleged five employees were undocumented and aggravated by 5% for those 5 Form I-9s.

    Although ICE proffered a company payroll register for the two-year period of the NOI, this document did not provide hiring and termination dates. Without such, it is impossible to determine whether Metropolitan was required to retain the I-9 forms of the terminated employees, (Remember if the employee has worked there for over three years, an employer is only required to retain the I-9 form for a year from termination). The ALJ stated “mind reading is not an accepted tool of judicial inquiry.” Despite this shortcoming, OCAHO could discern the applicable dates for 189 employees out of the 209 employees.

    However, OCAHO could not discern the hiring and termination dates of 20 employees; therefore, it could not determine whether Metropolitan was required under the law to retain their I-9 forms. Based on this, OCAHO dismissed 20 of the allegations.

    Concerning the mitigation of the penalties, OCAHO did not find good faith based upon “wide spread, fundamental errors, which as a whole, have undermined the purpose of the employment verification system.” Furthermore, OCAHO declined to find five employees were undocumented because the ICE auditor did not identify the databases that he searched nor provided any details regarding how he conducted the searches.

    OCAHO concluded the penalties proposed by ICE “while arguably defensible, are slightly disproportionate to the overall extent of the violations.” Thus, OCAHO set the penalties at $800 per violation rather than $935 per violation.

    This decision was interesting because it detailed ICE’s failure to provide the appropriate facts to established some of the allegations and OCAHO’s astonishment that ICE considered Metropolitan’s conduct would warrant good faith mitigation.
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