Kreider Farms Loses One Third of Workforce As a Result of I-9 Audit
In the last few years, the United States government has significantly increased the number of auditors it employs to ensure organizations are hiring legally documented individuals. The work-site audits examine the I-9 employment-eligibility forms that an employer has on file. Those forms must be completed by every U.S. employee.
As of November, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had conducted 2,496 I-9 audits in 2011, a dramatic increase from 2008, when only 503 audits were completed. With increases like this, every employer needs to ensure they are completing the I-9 forms correctly, getting regular I-9 audits and hiring legally documented workers. Only fulfilling one of these steps can cost companies tremendously.
Last week, one third of the employees at Kreider Farms were determined by an ICE audit to be illegally working in this country, some for many years. A Human Resource Representative from the organization said that Kreider Farms is not facing any fines or charges, despite the large number of workers found to have invalid documents. She stated she takes care to follow “the letter of the law” with employee documentation, and she said the audit found her records were very complete — the problem was with the documents she’d been given. Employers are not expected to be experts on government documents, so Kreider Farms was not at fault. That being said, the company is still paying the price. How can a company successfully go on doing business with only 2/3 of their workforce?
During recent audit of Abercrombie & Fitch, there wasn’t a single unauthorized worker. However, ICE fined the employer $1 million for what essentially were paperwork I-9 violations. Even employers who are hiring legally documented workers, can pay the price for simple paperwork mistakes or lack of training to complete the I-9 form properly.
In addition to the number of ICE Enforcement Auditors and audits, another change in our government has been the increased cooperation among ICE and other government enforcement agencies. ICE recently established a joint agency task force to gather information from multiple government sources and to target joint enforcement efforts.
Fusion centers have been established to facilitate cooperation among government agencies, commented Mary Pivec, an attorney with Keller and Heckman in Washington, D.C. Wage and hour investigators, ICE auditors and tax auditors all are in one place to share resources, leverage information and pursue top-to-bottom audits. An employer not following one guideline tends to have violations that crisscross the workforce enforcement realm, so the government thinks it makes good sense to maximize resources and have agents from different departments investigate together. What starts out as a wage and hour audit may become an ICE audit, as investigators have been cross-trained to recognize what might be violations of laws other than the ones they enforce, Pivec stated.
The OFCCP proposed an amendment to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation act to include “requiring contractors to invite all job applicants to voluntarily self-identify as persons with disabilities, survey employees annually about their disability status, and also review their personnel policies every year to ensure affirmative action compliance.” It also requires that contractors set a goal of 7 percent of their workforce being persons with disabilities.
Severances in PA
Does your organization offer a severance to employees? If so, you need to be aware that a severance pay may not impact the ability to collect UC benefits in PA. An employee receiving over 40% of the average annual wage in pay, which is $17,853.00, will have their UC benefits offset. Be careful not to state anything in your severance agreement that an employee could reasonably construe that this change in the law will not apply. Employers should also consider amending their severance-agreement-release language to state that the release is effective even if severance is offset or reduced under PA law.
2011 OSHA 300-A Summary forms must be posted from February 1- April 30th .
It’s right around the corner! Do you have yours ready?
This just in…OSHA awarded a pilot over one million dollars and he was reinstated to his job under Whistleblower Protection!
Here are some helpful tips for avoiding discrimination claims:
- Establish policies AND communicate them to employees, especially Supervisors or those with authority.
- Train management at all levels on employee rights and how to deal with complaints or concerns.
- Treat employees with respect.
- Focus on a person’s skills when hiring and making a termination decision.
- Know the law or have a resoource that does.
- Enforce policies consitently and timely.
- Keep detailed documentation of disciplinary actions.
- Conduct impartial, objective and timely investigations of complaints. Blindly siding with management could cause trouble.
- Do not invite retaliation.
- Be direct about your reasons for termination. Do not sugar coat, apologize, or get emotional.
Discrimination claims can be costly even when your organization is innocent of any wrongdoing. Taking the steps necessary to avoid them is critical for all businesses. A single claim could have severly detrimental effects, especially for a small business. If you have questions about how to accomplish any of these tips, Alternative HR can help.
When was the last time you reviewed you company handbook? Do you know if any employment related laws have changed which may negate your policies as written? Do you know if the policies you have in place are legally defendable? Have any issues arose lately that you could prevent from happening again by adding a policy? If you answered yes to any of these questions, contact Alternative HR to update your handbook!
Some of the policies we highly recommend include…
Employment At Will
Introductory Period (NOT Probationary)
Time Off/ Attendance
It is far better and less expensive to be proactive than reactive to employee issues. You do not want to be one of those organizations that learn the hard way!
Don’t have a handbook at all? Give Alternative HR a call to help create one for you! 855-5589
Yes, the Federal Government has several rules that must be followed when offering wellness incentives to your employees. Just a handful include…
* Does the amount of the reward under the plan have a limit of 20% of the applicable cost of coverage? This applies to programs that require employees to meet a standard related to a health factor, such as having a 25% or lower BMI.
* Does the plan reasonably promote health or prevent disease?
* Is the reward available to everyone similarly situated at least once per year?
* Does the prgram offer a reasonable alternative for those who cannot reasonably satify the standard, perhaps due to medical advisement by one’s physician?
*Is the reasonable alternative disclosed in all plan materialsdescribing the program?
Wellness is a win- win for everyone…as long as we follow the rules!