I-9 Mistakes that Could Sink Your Restaurant | Sapore magazine
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Now more than ever, it’s critical for managers to be familiar with and able to complete Form I-9 paperwork accurately for each new hire.

I-9 Mistakes that Could Sink Your Restaurant

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ICE can levy fines based on both missing and incorrect issues.
By Brian Elfrink July 2019 Labor

From urban population centers to rural areas, ICE worksite activities jumped more than threefold in the first nine months of full year 2018 and restaurants are often a focus for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And there’s no indication enforcement efforts will slow down soon. In fact, the Homeland Security FY 2020 budget calls for an additional $313.9 million for the hiring of an additional 1,000 officers and more than 600 supporting personnel.

For restaurants looking to get new employees into training and serving customers, the question may be how best to respond to this new reality?

As a first step, restaurants both big and small should consider additional training around and renewed commitment to accurate completion of Form I-9 when hiring new employees. Aligning with the requirements of Form I-9, which the government uses to verify a potential employee’s eligibility to work, is critical to mitigating the effects of a potential on-site investigation. This is especially important for employers still using paper forms. Estimates from law firm Jackson Lewis, PC suggest that 60­–80 percent of paper Form I-9s are missing, incomplete or contain errors. For restaurants still working with paper, maintaining compliance can be challenging.

It’s a 4-page form, but in total there are more than 900 pages of instructions from government handouts, guides and website on proper completion of Form I-9, according to Amy Peck, shareholder at Jackson Lewis, PC.  That’s a lot to remember for a quick-service restaurant manager, and whether they hire 50 or 5,000 new workers, businesses of all sizes can face I-9 audit compliance risk from errors on Form I-9 paperwork.

With high-volume hiring, common for most restaurant managers, it’s important to be mindful about how employment eligibility is documented. ICE can levy fines based on both missing and incorrect Forms I-9. Based on our experience with Forms I-9 audit and remediation for employers nationwide, including many quick-serves, there are a few common errors that can help form the core of any training program for managers:

  • Incomplete employee personal information in Section 1
  • Missing employee personal information at the top of Section 2 
  • Missing employee signatures
  • Forgetting to check the preparer/translator box in Section 1
  • Completing the Form I-9 outside of the statutory time requirements. Section 1 of Form I-9 must be completed on or before the first day of work for pay, and the employer must sign and date Section 2 within three business days of the hire date.

Now more than ever, it’s critical for managers to be familiar with and able to complete Form I-9 paperwork accurately for each new hire. Re-training and refreshing HR teams and managers is a smart way to help avoid unnecessary business risks.

Brian Elfrink leads the strategic direction and development for the suite of I-9 Management and E-Verify, services at Equifax Workforce Solutions. He is responsible for new product initiatives, legislative analysis, product management and onboarding workflows for HR teams and hiring managers using automated I-9 management, including conversion to electronic I-9 storage and audit and remediation services for employer nationwide.