Failing to properly handle employee eligibility and authorization forms can quickly lead to costly penalties, a lesson one Brooklyn-based construction services company learned recently.
Metropolitan Enterprises Inc. was found liable for 189 violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act and Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The investigation was conducted regarding the mishandling of employment eligibility forms, including failing to prepare or present the paperwork for some workers, as well as filing incomplete submissions.
Incomplete I-9 Forms lead to violation penalties
The U.S. Department of Justice's order revealed that, in March of 2015, Metropolitan was served with a Notice of Inspection informing it that its Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9s were under review by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After the evaluation, ICE alleged that the construction firm was in violation on two counts.
"The company must pay $151,200 for mishandling employee verification paperwork."
The first was for failing to ensure sections 1, 2 and/or 3 of I-9 Forms were properly completed for 156 of its employees - five of who it claimed were unauthorized - and the second for failing to prepare or present the forms for 53 employees. More specifically, according to the report, most of the forms in question didn't contain an employee or employer signature, with some leaving entire sections completely blank and others containing no citizenship or immigration status in section 1 checked.
ICE proposed a penalty totaling $195,649, alleging that the company committed 209 violations against the IRCA employment verification system, the order revealed. In its prehearing statement, Metropolitan said the penalty amount was "excessive" and claimed it did not knowingly hire or employ unauthorized workers.
In the final ruling, the court decided Metropolitan was not liable for 20 of the alleged violations and were dismissed on the account of insufficient evidence. However, the construction company was found liable for the remaining 189 violations. The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer reduced the penalty originally proposed by ICE by nearly 30 percent, bringing the owed amount down to $151, 200 - still a substantial fine, though not as bad as it could have been.
To avoid running into this kind of issue, organizations are strongly encouraged to use E-Verify systems, in addition to conducting internal I-9 audits. As demonstrated in the above case, even minor errors, such as a missing signature or improperly completing one section on these critical forms, can lead to heavy fines.