I-9 Justice – How the Greencard is Costing Organizations Greenbacks
When it comes to I-9 employment verification, the law allows employees to choose from a list of acceptable documents proving identity and work authorization to present to their new employers. Despite the law, employers are still getting in trouble with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. In the last three months, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates complaints related to employment discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status, has entered into three separate settlements with U.S. employers.
The Facts of the Case: A Fixation on Greencards
After receiving credible complaints, the OSC began its investigation of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center, Indrescom Security Technology and Ross Stores, Inc. for alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory activity. (The facts in the UCSD Medical Center case are slightly more complex and available here.)
The Problem with a Fixation on Greencards
All three investigations detailed above involved allegations that the HR representatives for each employer had asked the employee for a greencard during the I-9 Form employment verification process. When HR representatives in charge of signing Section 2 and re-verifying Section 3 become fixated on the greencard specifically for employment verification of non-U.S. citizens, the potential for violations of the law is high.
When verifying Section 2 or 3, asking an employee for additional documents, even though the employee has produced a valid and acceptable document, is considered over-documentation and potentially violates the law. Asking for alternative documents and refusing to accept valid and acceptable documents constitutes document abuse. Non-U.S. Citizens who are authorized to work in the U.S. have a variety of documents from which to present to an employer during employment verification depending on their immigration status. The greencard is only one such document. When it comes to violations of the law, OSC settlement agreements can contain costly monetary fines, civil penalties and remedial conduct on the part of the employer. Employers who enter into settlement agreements usually have to undergo training, reporting and monitoring, at its own time and expense for a prolonged period.
The Solutions for a Greencard Fixation
There are many ways to correct misinformation and behavior. The first recommendation is to ensure all HR personnel involved in employment verification processes understand the law, particularly the list of acceptable documents and how to appropriately request documents establishing both identity and work authorization from new hire employees. The second is to partner with allies who will help your organization succeed in this arena. Finally, arm yourself with the latest updates and technology to avoid costly mistakes.