For many employers, the idea of achieving I-9 and/or E-Verify compliance may be in the distant future. Yet, with all the talk about compliance, are there truly organizations that have achieved compliance? What does compliance actually mean? Our friends at Merriam-Webster define compliance as the “conformity in fulfilling official requirements.” Oddly enough, one of example of usage is, “There has been a low rate of compliance with the new law.” Indeed, based on I-9 inspections by ICE and the millions of fines already issued, as well as the variety of E-Verify state laws that have gone into effect but with low rates of actual employer compliance, the folks at Merriam-Webster may be on to something….
Compliance Is Not a One-Time Event
From writing numerous articles and discussing with many employers, compliance is a constantly moving target. The laws keep changing. Different teams might be involved in how internal business processes are created, managed and executed. Your organization may achieve compliance one day but easily be non-compliant the next day. Compliance is like trying to keep your garage from getting cluttered.
First, you’ll have to clean out the garage by sorting through necessary and unnecessary items. The I-9 and E-Verify equivalent would be conducting an internal audit of your organization’s business protocols.
Second, you’ll have to create a storage system so that all items have a place to call “home.” The I-9 and E-Verify equivalent would be to investigate the right methods of executing and storing I-9 records and E-Verify case documents. Would your organization continue with a Paper I-9 process and enroll in E-Verify as an Employer? Or, would your organization utilize an electronic I-9 and E-Verify combined software to manage these processes and store all the necessary documents?
Third, you’ll want to ensure that all the folks who have access to the garage contribute in keeping it clutter free and organized by educating them with signs and/or instructions. The same applies in I-9 and E-Verify compliance. All members who contribute to these processes should be trained on how to manage and execute the processes within the confines of the law.
Finally, there should be mechanisms in place to enforce the rules. Would individuals who stray from the rules receive discipline and/or re-training? If so, how soon will it occur?
Understanding Compliance Applies to Outside Resources Too
Your outside partners (whether it’s electronic I-9 and E-Verify vendors or outside counsel) should also be cognizant of the ephemeral nature of I-9 and E-Verify compliance. The laws change but have these partners stayed updated on those changes? Vendors can claim their software is compliant one day but what about two months down the road? What about in a year? How will the software evolve to meet the changing rules and laws? How would your organization even know?
The same would apply to legal counsel. (Check out our list of expert attorneys in this field.) Hiring the right attorneys to assist your organization is a critical step towards achieving and maintaining compliance. Remember, it’s an on-going process.
Constantly Playing Compliance Catch-Up?
If your organization is constantly playing catch-up, it will be hard to achieve compliance right away. The cost of non-compliance though, as recent figures from DHS reveals, is much costlier! The three biggest consequences of non-compliance are disruption to your organization, loss of productivity and loss of revenue.
The goal, in my opinion, is to get the ball rolling and start somewhere. While 100% compliance may not be possible today, working towards it will certainly help minimize overall risks for your organization in the future. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Want more? Subscribe to this blog or sign up for our newsletter.