Overview: Employers must comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which requires employers to verify the identity of their employees and requires employment eligibility verification of their authorization to work in the US. In order to do so, employers and employees are required to fill out a Form I-9, and it is mandatory that the employee provide documentation to the employer verifying his or her identity and work authorization.
While employers need to be diligent about completing the Form I-9, they should not be so overzealous that they end up penalizing or discriminating against authorized workers. On the other hand, employers that do not comply with the employment eligibility verification provisions of IRCA can be subject to penalties - civil and criminal. Therefore, employers should develop an effective compliance program in order to avoid such penalties and consider enrolling in E-Verify if not already required by state law or by the federal contractor rule.
Trends: The Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has been actively enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as amended by IRCA, for unfair immigration related employment practices. In particular, the OSC has been pursuing cases against employers where they engage in document abuse by insisting upon specific documents from the lists of acceptable Form I-9 documents, by attempting to prescreen applicants before extending an employment offer to them; or acting with discriminatory intent against protected individuals.
Further, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to audit and indict employers throughout the country for falling short in Form I-9 compliance. In fact, in Fiscal Year 2013, 14 Massachusetts employers were fined more than $175K in total. The fines resulted from investigations and audits of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, documents.
Author: Melissa A. Silver, JD, Legal Editor
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