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How to Minimize Risks of I-9 Discrimination Lawsuits

Posted by Ferguson, Jeffrey at Thursday, 05/17/2012 11:32 am
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What are the risks of failure to comply with I-9 documentation? Can an employee be sued because they asked for legal status documents? How can an employer stay in I-9 compliance?

In this article you will find out how employers are at risk of discrimination lawsuits when they step out of the boundaries of I-9 compliance. There will also be an explanation of how I-9 guidelines help ensure all employees are authorized to work.

The process to determine whether or not a prospective employee has the legal status to work is not complicated. However, when an employer feels compelled to go beyond the I-9 compliance regulations they could find themselves opening up a world of legal troubles. Namely, they can become defendants in a discrimination lawsuit. That is not a situation any company wants to find itself in especially when it can be avoided by following the rules.

The guidelines for determining an employee’s work authorization status have been set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). First, all employees should be treated equally. This means that natural born citizens and permanent residents will have to fill out Form I-9 and provide proper work authorization documentation. It’s when employers ask for more documentation than is required by that law do they find themselves in legal “hot water.”

A 2010 discrimination lawsuit was brought against a popular vacuum cleaner manufacturer when it was alleged the company was asking permanent resident employees for proof of their status after their green cards had expired. While this might seem like a harmless request, it actually goes against the letter of the law. Ultimately, the manufacturer settled out of court by agreeing to pay penalties to the plaintiff, incorporate I-9 compliance training for all of its human resources personnel and submit additional reports to the Department of Justice.

The immigration issues facing this country generate passion on both sides of the aisle. To be in I-9 compliance is an attempt to level the playing field. The adherence to these regulations ultimately might help frame the development of new immigration policies. As it stands today any employer who does not comply with the I-9 regulations could be guilty of breaking the law and might find themselves facing penalties and a loss of reputation.

On every copy of the Form I-9 are lists which spell out exactly what type of documentation is acceptable. There is no reason for any employer to go beyond those guidelines. This means that an employer can’t specify which of these documents they will require. To do so is considered discrimination. This applies to asking an employee to prove their green-card status. It is up to the employee to provide the documents. If those documents aren’t provided, then the employer will make note of that as part of filing out the form and there can be no hiring.

Most of the troubles surrounding I-9 compliance are due to a lack of understanding. It’s important for management to insure their human resources department understands these issues through proper training. Many employers take advantage of electronic administration of their I-9 practices. By utilizing this type of program, a company will be alerted to any changes in the law and receive ongoing training guidelines and reminders.

Even small errors in I-9 forms cost you and your company valuable time and money. Download our free report on how to “Avoid 5 I-9 Mistakes”. Find out what you can do to ensure your I-9 process in in compliance. Let this free report help show you how.

Take a couple of minutes to sign up for a free analysis of your hiring practices. There’s no obligation and no fee. Get an insightful look at your current practices and make sure you are up-to-date with all compliance issues. Also, discover ways we can dramatically lower your human resource services costs.