MLF Attorneys Present Forum on I-9 Compliance

Sheela Murthy, Murthy Law Firm founder and president, and Brian Green, a supervising attorney in our Special Projects department, teamed up to teach a Business Network Forum on the newly revised edition of the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) form for employers on May 7, 2013. [See USCIS Releases Revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9), MurthyDotCom, 19.Mar.2013.] HR specialists and corporate counsels attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. It was held at the East Side Career Center in Baltimore on June 7th.

Attorneys Murthy and Green explained that, as of May 7th, all U.S. employers must use the new, more detailed version of the I-9 form for all new hires and, when required, for re-verification of employment eligibility. They cautioned that failure to use only the new I-9 after that date will expose an employer to penalties, but clarified this does not mean that employers must complete new I-9s for their workforce. It simply means that the new form must be used whenever it is necessary to complete the I-9.

Murthy and Green discussed a range of employer responsibilities for I-9 compliance. Among the highlights:

  • Avoiding possible document abuse
    Document abuse occurs when an employer asks an employee for too many documents as part of the I-9 process, or demands specific documents rather than allowing a choice from among appropriate document options. As explained by Murthy and Green, that is against the law, and can expose an employer to discrimination claims.
  • Document-retention requirements for I-9 files
    This is necessary to avoid serious problems in the event of an audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators.
  • Employer requirements if HSI identifies fraudulent documents used in the I-9 process
    Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) uses forensic auditors to identify falsified or improper I-9 supporting documents. Employers must take very specific steps, as explained by Murthy and Green, in the event HSI identifies such problems within the employer’s I-9 records.

The talk was not entirely of cautionary tales and traps for the unwary. As Ms. Murthy pointed out, companies that participate in E-Verify – the online employment eligibility verification system – get a special benefit: they qualify to employ recent graduates of U.S. colleges and universities holding degrees in STEM fields in Optional Practical Training (OPT) status for up to 29 months, 17 months beyond the normal limit. These STEM graduates – with knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – are critical to our economy, and currently in demand in many parts of the country. This doesn’t just help OPT workers and the companies that need them; it strengthens America’s competitiveness in the world economy.

For their part, businesses need to fully understand the responsibilities of the I-9 system, including the recent form changes, particularly in the current, more rigorous compliance regimen. If your company needs advice on how to comply with the new I-9 requirements, the Murthy Law Firm stands ready to assist you.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.