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Staffing firm fined $1.5M for I-9 violations

A staffing firm is facing a $1.5 million fine after an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found the company liable for I-9 violations.

The family-owned staffing agency has offices in Washington and Oregon. While they employ fewer than

50 fulltime employees, they hire hundreds of seasonal workers throughout the year.

Acting on a tip, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials initiated a Form I-9 audit. Nearly two years later, ICE issued a notice of intent to fine, alleging more than 1,800 form violations and seeking more than $2 million in penalties.

In a decision, the ALJ found the firm liable for more than 1,500 violations, including failing to prepare the I-9 form properly, backdating forms, and failing to re-verify temporary employment authorization. Improperly prepared forms were found to have numerous deficiencies, including:

  • No category of employment authorization
  • No alien registration number (where applicable)
  • No signature by a new hire, attesting that they were authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Absent or incorrect employer attestation regarding document review and verification
  • No or invalid documents (under I-9 acceptable documents)

In her decision, the ALJ reduced the fine for all but the nearly 180 forms where backdating was evident.

“This final order presents an opportunity to impress upon this Respondent, the importance of candor in the I-9 form process. Accordingly, backdated forms (in Count IV) will merit a higher civil penalty than the untimely completed forms (in Count III),” the judge said.

Review your compliance

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced new, increased fines for Form I-9 penalties. The fine for paperwork or technical violations ranges from $252 to $2,507 per form. Fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ an unauthorized worker (for which the firm above was not found liable) range from $590 to $4,722 for a first offense.

Employers are generally advised to keep employee training up to date for anyone handling the I-9 process and to complete regular internal audits to ensure the process is being followed thoroughly and accurately.

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