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On June 30, 2016, the United States Department of Justice published a final interim rule in the Federal Register that essentially doubled specific fines pertaining to immigration related offenses, including paperwork violations, and unlawful employment of unauthorized workers, among other practices.
I-9 Paperwork violations, (such as missing or incorrect fields and dates beyond the allotted time for completion), were raised from a range of $110-$1100, to a new range of $216-$2156. These new numbers become effective as of August 1, 2016, and the fines will be applicable to any violations that took place after November 2, 2015.
In addition to the paperwork violations, fines that relate to willful employment of an unauthorized employee will raise from a minimum of $539-$4313 for a first offense, all the way up to $6469-$21563 for any offenses beyond the second.
These new fines are based on formula relative to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index from October, 2015 and were authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.
Employers of all sizes should focus on their I-9 processes in order to comply with all applicable I-9 laws, regulations and enforcement positions. While the enhancement of fines and the resulting publicity can be devastating for any size of business, these new numbers would be especially crippling for small to mid-size companies. It is important to note that companies of all size run the risk of audits and fines, as audits are often based on employee tips and/or inclusion in specific industries, such as food processing, transportation, staffing, etc.
These new fine levels, coupled with the incoming new Form I-9 should give employers plenty to think about in the coming months. All employers need to carefully review their I-9 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manuals for accuracy and detail. Stay tuned to this space as more information becomes available regarding the release date of the new form, as well as any challenges that may arise to the new fine levels.