Form I-9 penalties typically grow by the violation, and Golden Employment Group Inc. is facing a huge penalty following allegations of hundreds of Form I-9 issues.
Administrative Law Judge Ellen Thomas ruled that the temporary employment company is liable for more than 400 Form I-9 violations, according to a partial summary decision. Though E-Verify is often a sign of good faith, in her ruling, Thomas said that Golden Employment's use of the background verification program was not enough to protect it from its responsibility to complete its Form I-9s properly. The Minnesota company was charged with a variety of violations, such as failure to present certain Form I-9s and not filling out others compliantly. In all, the company was charged with 465 infractions.
Golden Employment is a temporary help service that was incorporated 20 years ago and is owned and operated by Paul Hughes. It received between 2,000 to 3,000 applications per year and has more than 20,000 people in its database. The company began using E-Verify in 2008.
"ICE filed eight complaints with OCAHO detailing 505 violations.
Golden Employment racks up Form I-9 violations
Hughes contacted ICE after receiving a Notice of Inspection April 10, 2013. ICE gave the company until April 15 to provide requested Form I-9s. That day the company presented four boxes containing Form I-9s. In May and June, it provided ICE with additional boxes, which the agency subsequently treated as untimely. In March 2015, ICE filed eight complaints with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer detailing 505 violations and requesting a $305,525 penalty.
In the company's defense, it argued that it received an extension. In addition, it claimed that given the shear amount of documents it had to provide, missing the April 15 deadline should be considered reasonable. ICE's proposed fine was based on the agency's contention that Form I-9s received after the April 15 deadline were untimely. This led ICE to conclude there was a violation rate of 35 percent. Golden Employment calculated an alternative fine under the assumption that the forms submitted in May and June were timely. The company proposed a much lower penalty of $63,250 at most.
Thomas ruled that Golden Employment was liable for failure to provide 125 Form I-9s in a timely manner. In addition, she ruled that the company didn't supply 236 of the documents at all. In addition, Golden Employment was charged with improperly completing certain Form I-9s, among other violations. Despite the company's arguments that the government's request for a partial decision came too early, Thomas found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was completely within its rights.
"I accordingly conclude that the company has had a more than ample opportunity to review these documents, and that ICE's motion for partial summary decision is ripe for resolution," she wrote.
Thomas noted that there was no reason for Hughes to believe that the documents submitted after the April 15 deadline would be considered timely. She added that use of E-Verify didn't mean that the company could skip filling out Form I-9s for certain employees.
Employers should remain attentive regarding Form I-9 compliance
While E-Verify can certainly indicate good faith, using the background verification program does not absolve employers of their other hiring responsibilities. It is important for companies to remain vigilant about Form I-9 compliance. Especially with the pending arrival of a new version of the document,which could mean more scrutiny. Also, it is important to avoid making assumptions about potential leniency from ICE, like Hughes seemingly did when he sent Form I-9s after the previously imposed deadline.
With Thomas' dismissal of Hughes' argument, it seems Golden Employment's fine will be closer to $300,000 than $60,000. Either penalty, though, is certainly something that employers should seek to avoid.
Discover how an electronic and web-based Form I-9 solution such as I-9 Advantage can help companies avoid Form I-9 related violations.