Hartmann Studios, Inc., an event design and production company, was recently handed a large fine by an administrative judge for improper completion of its Form I-9s.
In 2011 the company was notified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the agency would be auditing its Form I-9s, employee lists and payroll records, according to court documents. Hartmann Studios employed just over 700 employees, and it turns out many of those individuals' Form I-9s weren't completed properly. In fact, ICE identified 818 violations during its audit. The agency issued a Notice of Intent to Fine, which led the company to improve its hiring process.
"ICE identified 818 violations during its audit."
Hartmann Studios fails to complete Section 2
Most of the violations were in Section 2 of the Form I-9s. This portion affirms that a representative of the employer reviewed the documents provided by the new hire to prove that he or she is eligible to work in the U.S. ICE found that 797 of the Form I-9s reviewed in the audit of Hartmann Studios were left blank in the second section, the case's final decision shows. This was one of several so-called "serious" violations identified by both ICE and the administrative judge.
Other problems found include a failure to make sure the employee signs Section 1 of the Form I-9, a failure to ensure that the individual checks off the box in that section confirming citizenship status, a failure to confirm that the new hire adds his or her alien registration number if either one of the lawful permanent resident or alien authorized to work boxes were checked off and a failure to list driver's license expiration dates in Section 1.
Serious violations lead to substantial fine
Due to the seriousness of the violations, the administrative judge handed down substantial fines to Hartmann Studios. The company tried to argue that its efforts to improve its hiring process represented good faith, but the judge did not agree with Hartmann Studios' contention. The penalty was reduced from ICE's recommendation of $812,665, but still rather large.
For its failure to ensure the completion of Section 2 of its Form I-9s, the company was ultimately handed fines of $700 per violation, which added up to $557,900. Additional breaches of Form I-9 regulations bumped the penalty up to $605,250.
Employers can avoid such fines by taking extra measures to ensure they are completing Form I-9s correctly, such as employing an electronic Form I-9 solution. These programs prevent users from moving on from one section to another, unless each one is finished properly, pretty much guaranteeing compliant completion of Form I-9s.