As an employer, you are one of those people who know that I-9 isn’t a freeway in Los Angeles. The only place it can take you is to the front page of your local newspaper, where you can gaze at an unflattering picture of yourself under a story headlined “Local Businessman Arrested in ICE raid.”
Anything can trigger an ICE audit. Anonymous complaints from a disgruntled employee, or even one of your competitors, can lead to a surprise visit. Other audits are simply conducted on a random basis. No geographical region is immune to these visitations. Major ICE raids have taken place in obvious places such as Arizona and California, but others have come down hard on employers in North Dakota and Rhode Island, among others.
Severe as the civil penalties may be—starting at $100 and scaling rapidly up to $3200 for every single technical violation of the law—willful violations can be felonies. Willful in some cases has been defined as simply not doing enough to ensure that your business is in proper compliance.
Even these penalties are not the real killers, however. The ruinous effect of an ICE accusation is rapidly noticed when your customers vanish and your former business associates have no desire to link their names to yours in any way. No matter if you are innocent, your reputation can be so destroyed that you are effectively put out of business anyhow.
If you haven’t already taken measures to ensure that you are in full compliance with ICE regulations, there isn’t much you can do about it this year, which is almost gone. But it’s a pretty good idea to assess your level of compliance before the New Year begins. Start with a fresh page.
The easiest way to do this is to avail oneself of an expert online I-9 Compliance service such as the one found at http://www.i-9compliance.com/Form-I-9-Management.aspx. These services act as a sort of self-ordered compliance audit. You can quickly find out if your e-verify information is current on all employees and if the I-9 forms are all in order.
Another advantage of using I-9compliance.com is that you provide your business with valuable legal cover in the event of an audit actually occurring. ICE can see that you take these regulations seriously, have consulted with professional experts, and are acting in conformance to their advice to the best of your knowledge. That becomes a valuable and extremely inexpensive form of insurance against what could be a real legal and public perception nightmare. Since these services are a business expense, the government can bear a percentage of the cost.
Don’t let I-9 compliance become the highway to hell for your company.