An administrative law judge for the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer found Minneapolis, Minnesota-based International Packaging Inc. mostly liable for a series of Form I-9 violations.
For the most part, ALJ Ellen Thomas ruled in favor of the government in the case over employment eligibility verification violations, according to court documents. IPI, a promotional marketing company, was found guilty of 94 of the 95 charges brought against it by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thomas made the ruling after a bid by ICE for partial summary judgment.
"The decision continues the government's policy of shifting the burden to private employers to enforce Department of Homeland Security rules," DeAnne Hilgers, International's attorney said, according to Law360.
IPI was founded in 1972 by Fred Butkovich and several other co-founders. The company is now run by his children, Jon Butkovich and Mary Jo Morales. The government issued a Notice of Inspection to the company on February 17, 2011, and followed with a Notice of Suspect Documents on March 15. ICE also issued a Notice of Technical and Procedural Failures. The 19 employees referred to in the NSD were all let go by IPI.
"ICE argued for a baseline penalty of $935 per violation."
ICE argues for a penalty of $935 per violation
ICE ultimately brought two counts against the packaging company. The first alleged IPI failed to prepare or present 21 Form I-9s following the NOI. The second count claimed that 74 of the Form I-9s provided by the company had "substantive errors." Ultimately, the judge dismissed one of the 94 charges, ruling that the Form I-9 for the employee was completed in a compliant manner.
ICE argued for a baseline penalty of $935 per violation. However, Thomas noted that both parties will be given the chance to argue their cases in regard to potential penalties. IPI has until May 16 to develop an argument, while the government was given an extra month.
Another case touches on good faith
This is the second Form I-9 case involving a Minnesota-based company that Thomas ruled on in April. In addition, it is the second that touched on the good faith defense sometimes used by employers. Previously she had ruled Golden Employment Group Inc.'s use of E-Verify did not constitute good faith due to the extent of the company's infractions. She wrote in the IPI partial summary judgment that the good faith defense may not be applied to substantive violations.