Are your I-9s all in order?
August 7, 2017
• Court upholds a $305,000 penalty
• “Stuffing the government’s correspondence in a drawer and never responding”
For companies in the Central Valley that employ non-citizens, there is a lesson to be learned from fate of a firm in Phoenix.
DLS Precision Fab, LLC, of Phoenix, Arizona, was growing so fast, it hired a well-credentialed human resources director to deal with the sudden growth of its workforce and ensure its compliance with applicable state and federal employment laws.
There was once slight problem.
The new HR director “shirked his responsibility to ensure the company’s compliance” to the point, ‘of literally stuffing the government’s correspondence in a drawer and never responding,’” notes the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeal in a ruling Monday.
Then ICE agents came to visit and went through those stuffed drawers.
After sifting through the company’s employment paperwork, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ultimately cited the firm for hiring aliens who did not have a right to work in the U.S. or had somehow screwed up the I-9 paperwork.
An administrative law judge found DLS liable for 504 of 508 alleged violations, 489 of which were I-9 paperwork violations and 15 of which involved DLS’s continuing employment of ineligible aliens.
DLS was ordered to pay civil money penalties adding up to $305,050.
The company appealed, but to little avail. The federal appeals court has struck just one of the 504 violations and has upheld the damage award. There remains a question of whether the company will be able to pay it, as it is in the midst of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
And don’t hang the HR director, says the court.
“DLS is not the first employer to hire an employee with the expectation that he or she will comply with the law only to be disappointed, nor is it likely to be the last. More broadly, DLS asks us to disregard the company’s responsibility for hiring and supervising its own employees. The HR director was acting as DLS’s agent, and his failure to perform his responsibility may properly be imputed to DLS,” says the ruling.