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By: Kelly Eisenlohr-Moul
Unfortunately, the short answer is “yes.”
Over the last year, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (“OSC”), located within the Department of Justice, has touted numerous settlements for alleged “document abuse” (discriminatory I-9 practices) and/or citizenship discrimination.
Press releases and settlement agreements are publicly available via the OSC’s website.
The employers identified in these press releases occupy a broad range of industries, including several large hospitality and construction businesses, which tend to be targeted due to their employee turnover and perceived likelihood to hire unauthorized workers.
Upon review of the settlement agreements, however, it becomes clear that each of these employers utilized E-Verify, the federal government’s online system for work authorization. The employers were audited based on this usage, through a “referral” from U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
If your company utilizes E-Verify, this is a concerning trend. The OSC takes an aggressive stance with regards to audits, fines, and administrative proceedings which results in the expenditure of significant time and resources.
The best way to avoid an audit is to take steps to insure that your E-Verify usage complies with federal law by:
• Implementing clear policies regarding Forms I-9 and E-Verify;
• Training each and every person involved in completing Forms I-9 or who uses E-Verify on behalf of the company; and
• Auditing Forms I-9 and E-Verify compliance on at least a yearly basis to correct inadvertent errors.
The bottom line is that E-Verify makes it easier for the federal government to spot potential violations. Take some time to make sure your company is protected from this liability.