Kreider Farms Loses One Third of Workforce As a Result of I-9 Audit
In the last few years, the United States government has significantly increased the number of auditors it employs to ensure organizations are hiring legally documented individuals. The work-site audits examine the I-9 employment-eligibility forms that an employer has on file. Those forms must be completed by every U.S. employee.
As of November, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had conducted 2,496 I-9 audits in 2011, a dramatic increase from 2008, when only 503 audits were completed. With increases like this, every employer needs to ensure they are completing the I-9 forms correctly, getting regular I-9 audits and hiring legally documented workers. Only fulfilling one of these steps can cost companies tremendously.
Last week, one third of the employees at Kreider Farms were determined by an ICE audit to be illegally working in this country, some for many years. A Human Resource Representative from the organization said that Kreider Farms is not facing any fines or charges, despite the large number of workers found to have invalid documents. She stated she takes care to follow “the letter of the law” with employee documentation, and she said the audit found her records were very complete — the problem was with the documents she’d been given. Employers are not expected to be experts on government documents, so Kreider Farms was not at fault. That being said, the company is still paying the price. How can a company successfully go on doing business with only 2/3 of their workforce?
During recent audit of Abercrombie & Fitch, there wasn’t a single unauthorized worker. However, ICE fined the employer $1 million for what essentially were paperwork I-9 violations. Even employers who are hiring legally documented workers, can pay the price for simple paperwork mistakes or lack of training to complete the I-9 form properly.
In addition to the number of ICE Enforcement Auditors and audits, another change in our government has been the increased cooperation among ICE and other government enforcement agencies. ICE recently established a joint agency task force to gather information from multiple government sources and to target joint enforcement efforts.
Fusion centers have been established to facilitate cooperation among government agencies, commented Mary Pivec, an attorney with Keller and Heckman in Washington, D.C. Wage and hour investigators, ICE auditors and tax auditors all are in one place to share resources, leverage information and pursue top-to-bottom audits. An employer not following one guideline tends to have violations that crisscross the workforce enforcement realm, so the government thinks it makes good sense to maximize resources and have agents from different departments investigate together. What starts out as a wage and hour audit may become an ICE audit, as investigators have been cross-trained to recognize what might be violations of laws other than the ones they enforce, Pivec stated.