Any type of government audit is usually a tedious, complex process that business owners want to avoid at all costs.
When it comes to an I-9 compliance audit, circumstances are no different. These types of audits are designed to make sure that an employer is hiring legal workers. There are a few good reasons that your organization will want to be sure that its I-9 paperwork is in order so that you can avoid audits or fines because of I-9 violations.
What are the penalties for an I-9 violation?
If it is determined that you have committed an I-9 violation, the penalties vary depending on the type of violation. Fines range from between $110 and $1,100 for a simple paperwork error. However, if a pattern of your organization hiring and continuously employing illegal employees emerges during an audit, you could be fined up to $16,000 per worker or face criminal charges.
Even if you are an upstanding employer who tries their best to not hire illegal employees, you can still face a penalty due to an honest mistake or slip-up. Here are four of the best tips to avoid I-9 compliance audits that could result in penalties and fines.
1. Create a good recordkeeping system and stick to it
Under the law, employers are required to keep I-9 documents for every single employee they have on staff. When an employee is terminated, employers have to keep the document on file for either a year after termination or three years after the employee began work, whichever is later. You could potentially get audited for I-9 compliance relating to an employee that does not work for you anymore. Because of this, it’s critical that your paperwork is organized and easy to access.
2. Check for mistakes and omissions
One of the biggest reasons that employers get audited for I-9 compliance is because of a failure to double-check their employees’ forms. A name in the wrong place, an incomplete address, or a missing signature are all grounds for an I-9 form to be considered invalid. It is critical that you or someone in your HR department reviews all of the I-9 forms that your employees fill out to ensure they are complete.
3. Offer help to employees
Many companies throw several tasks and processes at their new hires all at once, making it challenging for them to fill everything out properly. To make things worse, employees are often eager to get started, so they rush to fill out their I-9 forms and other paperwork.
This is the wrong attitude to have. Instead, you should make sure that your new employees have all the time and assistance that is necessary to fill out their I-9 forms properly. Someone in your organization should be available if any of your new hires have questions or concerns about the I-9 form.
4. Treat everyone equally
One of the biggest mistakes that can cause an audit is having a different process in place for employment verification of different employees. Some employers make the mistake of believing that they need to scrutinize documents from foreign-born employees more closely than documents from native citizens. Other companies might refuse to accept a document that is legally considered proof of employment verification under the law. This infraction is known as document fraud and can land your company in serious trouble.
With the right processes for hiring, an effective organizational system, and an open attitude towards employees, your company stands an excellent chance of avoiding I-9 audits from the government.