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.
If you have questions about how to conduct an I-9 audit or how recent changes in immigration law can affect your workplace, please contact Greg Currey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.209.6424
ABOUT GREGORY CURREY
Gregory Currey is an experienced and efficient litigator who focuses his practice on Labor and Employment Law and Defense Litigation. He represents employers in State and Federal employment litigation, focusing on all aspects of employee relations, including compliance with Title VII, the ADA, FMLA, FLSA, immigration issues involving I-9s, the E-verify program and H-1B visas, ERISA, retiree health benefits and the NLRA. In addition to handling employment litigation, Mr.Currey represents companies and individuals in general litigation, with extensive experience in construction litigation. In addition to his litigation work, Mr. Currey counsels businesses and organizations to ensure compliance with State and Federal employment laws, reviews and drafts policies for employee handbooks and leads employee and management training programs.
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