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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. Staffing Company and IER Settle Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law, PLLC

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the OSC, has reached an agreement with Sellari’s Enterprises, Inc., a staffing company in Orlando, Florida. The settlement agreement resolves an investigation into whether Sellari’s violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against work-authorized immigrants. The IER concluded Sellari’s requested that non-U.S. citizens present specific documents to prove their work authorization, such as a Permanent Resident Cards or Employment Authorization Documents, while not requesting specific documents from U.S. citizens. All work-authorized individuals, whether citizens or non-citizens, have the right to choose which valid documentation to present to prove they are authorized to work. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to different or unnecessary documentary demands based on employees’ citizenship, immigration status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Sellari’s will pay a civil penalty of $120,000 to the United States, post notices informing workers about their rights under the INA’s antidiscrimination provision, undergo IER-provided training to HR employees on proper I-9 and E-Verify practices, revise employment policies and practices to be in compliance with the law, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.
  2. IER Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Panda Express

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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    The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department announced it reached a settlement agreement with Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. (Panda Express), a restaurant chain with over 1,800 locations in the United States. The agreement resolves an investigation into whether Panda Express discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) when reverifying their authorization to work.

    The investigation concluded Panda Express unnecessarily required lawful permanent resident workers to re-establish their work authorization when their Permanent Resident Cards (green cards) expired, while not making similar requests to U.S. citizen workers when their documents expired. The investigation also revealed that Panda Express routinely required other non-U.S. citizen workers to produce immigration documents to reverify their ongoing work authorization despite evidence they had already provided sufficient documentation. The antidiscrimination provision of the INA prohibits such requests for documents when based on an employee’s citizenship status or national origin.

    Under the settlement, Panda Express will pay a civil penalty of $400,000 to the United States, establish a $200,000 back pay fund to compensate workers who lost wages due to the company’s practices, undergo IER-provided training to HR employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, revise employment policies, modify its electronic I-9 system, train HR personnel on the M-274 Handbook for Employers and the USCIS E-Verify manual, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.

    This settlement is the largest to date in calendar year 2017. Employers should be trained by immigration counsel on a regular basis of immigration compliance issues.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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/.
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