Employment verification audits have risen dramatically over the past five years: 250 in 2007, and over 3,000 in 2012, with the median fine being $11,000 for organizations that cannot demonstrate compliance with I-9 regulations. Fines have grown from just $1 million in 2009 to $13 million in 2012. Additionally, over 200 corporate officer arrests were made in 2012, some of which resulted in jail time. (Source: Business Management Daily) The increase in audits, fines and arrests highlights the need for every organization to evaluate their current HR processes to ensure I-9 compliance.
One way to assure that you can maintain compliance is to conduct an internal audit of your documents and processes. These audits will highlight areas of improvement and any information gaps that may exist so that you are prepared for an audit from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). With immigration reform on the near-term horizon, ensuring that you can prove compliance will become more and more critical to surviving these audits. Document management is a tool that can help streamline both internal and external audits.
Ensure I-9 Compliance with Document Management Software
As discussed in a previous blog post on HR on-boarding, document management software helps you meet compliance guidelines for the multitude of hiring documents you need to track and maintain. These systems provide you with secure and immediate access to I-9s (and any other documents) during an audit or for internal access/review. Workflow automation software takes it a step further by providing automatic notification if an I-9 or related documents are not present during processing.
Document management also enables secure, electronic document storage. Once I-9s and supporting documents are scanned and indexed, access rights are applied to each document ensuring that only the appropriate staff can view these sensitive documents. Document management software can also keep I-9s separate from the standard employee file—critical for ensuring compliance and avoiding discrimination claims.
Immediate Access Regardless of Location
Cloud-based document management works very well for organizations with multiple locations. If an audit were to occur at any office, appropriate staff can be granted immediate access to the I-9s for employees at that office from any location quickly and efficiently. There will be no need to physically go to multiple locations to prove ongoing compliance. Auditors can also be given electronic access to requested documents remotely, significantly minimizing the disruption of the audit.
Workflow Automation Further Ensures Compliance
I-9s and supporting documents must be completed and approved during the hiring process. Workflow automation software, a powerful component of document management, can ensure that all required documents are present before the employee is hired, and provide automatic alerts if they are not. Workflow automation software can help you prevent problems during an audit by checking for missing documents during the hiring process and after.
Records Retention Policy Creation and Enforcement
I-9 compliance begins with having a solid records retention policy. One place to find this information is the Department of Homeland Security’s I-9 guide. Once you have a policy in place, document management software can be used as an enforcement tool. With automatic notifications, document management and workflow automation software can identify potential records for destruction and create alerts for action to be taken.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you haven’t implemented a standard procedure for your I-9s, there is no time like the present to begin. Having internal audit processes and document management software with workflow automation will ensure ongoing compliance. Internal audits will help you be prepared for any ICE actions that come your way. With immigration reform on the horizon, make sure that you are ready today for changes coming tomorrow.