Last week, a local Baltimore business alerted its customers to possible disruptions in its services after officials from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) served the business with a notice that it intended to review its I-9 forms to determine its compliance with federal law. The day after receiving the notice, nearly a quarter of its staff did not report to work and may not return. Those not reporting to work included employees with proper documentation and work authorization who were nevertheless afraid of an ICE investigation due to the recent anti-immigrant policy changes and rhetoric. The local business had to adjust by operating with a significantly reduced staff and changing its business plans, even though its internal review showed that it complied with all applicable laws.
Since February, we have emphasized the importance of proactively conducting internal I-9 audits to ensure that your paperwork and policies are compliant. This is particularly important if your business is in an industry that traditionally relies on foreign nationals for a significant part of its workforce. Restaurants, landscaping companies, and construction companies are frequent targets for ICE I-9 investigations due to their historical reliance on undocumented workers. If you know that your policies are compliant and your paperwork is filled out and stored correctly, you can communicate that to your employees and assuage any concerns that they may have about the scope of an I-9 investigation before that investigation occurs. If individuals have questions, you should refer them to outside counsel who can verify that their legal status has not otherwise lapsed. By taking these steps early, you can communicate a clear plan to your workforce to ensure that they do not unduly panic if there is an investigation.
Remember, employers are not permitted to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race or national origin and are not permitted to dictate which employment authorization documents they will accept for the I-9. Employers are required only to confirm that employees have facially valid documents establishing that they are authorized to work. By confirming that your records are compliant and addressing any issues head-on, you can avoid a situation where a significant portion of your workforce needs to be replaced at a moment’s notice and avoid the business disruptions which may result.
In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns about immigration law, please contact Alfredo Acin
ABOUT ALFREDO ACIN
Mr. Acin is an associate in the firm’s Family Practice Group. He assists clients in a variety of family law matters including divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, property division, post-divorce decree enforcement, modification of custody, visitation, and support, and drafting pre-nuptial and separation agreements. Although he believes that it is in every party’s best interests to resolve matters between the parties, Mr. Acin recognizes that sometimes this is not possible, in which case he will zealously advocate on his clients’ behalf.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With over 135 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our eleven offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
You can connect with Offit Kurman via our Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn pages. You can also sign up to receive Law Matters, Offit Kurman’s monthly newsletter covering a diverse selection of legal and corporate thought leadership content.
MARYLAND | PENNSYLVANIA | VIRGINIA| NEW JERSEY | NEW YORK | DELAWARE | WASHINGTON, DC