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If the United States Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed up on your company's doorstep today, would you be worried? Would a complete audit of your employment files easily weather an ICE raid? If you don't immediately answer "yes" with 100 percent confidence, then you need to get ready for a potential ICE storm immediately.
ICE recently launched a new "silent raid" against the hiring of illegal workers by raiding 1,000 businesses nationwide. These companies, whose names have remained confidential, will be required to submit a full audit of their I-9 paperwork, including weekly work schedules, managers' names and names of temporary staffing agencies. Companies found guilty of illegal hiring practices are heavily fined, and illegal workers are fired. Foodservice and high-tech manufacturing are among the targeted industries.
You're probably thinking that since you've never hired illegal workers your restaurant should be fine, right? Don't be so sure — companies that don't hire illegal workers can still face large fines for incorrect or missing paperwork for legal workers.
Let's consider this familiar scenario. As the general manager of a busy restaurant, you just hired a new employee. It's the middle of the lunch rush, and you now have to train your new hire and complete the required I-9 paperwork and onboarding documents — all while juggling customer requests and overseeing food preparations. With high turnover in the industry, you are frequently hiring new employees so this situation happens to you on a regular basis.
Considering all the potential distractions that can happen to you during this scenario — and any other hiring situation — how confident are you that your I-9 paperwork for every employee is correct and on file? If you're not, then you run the risk of receiving a hefty fine if audited. Fines can range from $110 to $1,110 per form, depending on the violation. Even a small typo, such as filling in the wrong start date for an employee, will result in a fine.
Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do starting today to stay compliant and ensure you will survive ICE audit with flying colors.
Being prepared for an ICE raid before it happens, rather than being surprised and unprepared, is crucial. Maintaining paper files can be time-consuming and susceptible to getting lost or misplaced. Using an online I-9 Verification software can save a lot of time and ensure complete compliance. When considering which software is best, make sure it offers: electronic I-9 form completion and storage, deadline tracking, automatic completion alerts and reminders, and full support in case an ICE audit occurs.
To be safe during an ICE raid, prep for it on a regular basis. Understanding the legal and financial risks of incompliance and how to mitigate these risks is imperative. Likewise, find the tools and technology that can help you the best. Like G.I. Joe says "Knowing is the half the battle."
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