Are You Aware?
As a workforce, the United States utilizes more foreign-born workers than any other country. Estimates show as many as 1 in 6 American workers were born overseas, and that 17%, or 27 million people, in America’s workforce are immigrants.
Within manual labor industries, especially those that do not require a high school degree and involve little public service contact, the percentage of working immigrants rises. For jobs within areas such as agriculture, construction or maintenance, up to 40% of the employee base are foreignborn. Within that number, many of those workers—nearly half—may be undocumented.
Many immigrants come to America seeking work, and they secure the proper documentation to do so. However, many have come to America illegally When an employer knowingly hires workers who do not have the proper documentation, both the employer and worker can face penalties.
Are You Prepared?
With immigration at the forefront of discourse in America right now, there
is much speculation on who is to be held responsible for illegal workers.
Recent events, such as the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on convenience stores or a tree trimming company fined $96 million dollars, demonstrate that the government can and will cite employers with the responsibility of hiring legal workers.
In its article, “Legal Pitfalls to Hiring Undocumented Workers,” Nolo.com concludes, “As an employer … you are in legal peril if you knowingly employ undocumented immigrant workers.”
Federal law requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all workers. This information should be documented using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. ICE may use I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage employers to comply with this law, however their enforcement strategy can result in criminal prosecution if employers are found to have knowingly violated the law.
Monetary penalties could cost as much as $16,000 per violation. Repeat offenders receive high penalties, while substantive violations, such as failure to produce an I-9 form for each employee, range from $110 to $1,100 per instance.
Factors ICE considers when determining penalties include:
- Size of business
- Good faith effort to comply
- Seriousness of violation
- If violation involved unauthorized workers
- History of previous violations
Many companies work with independent contractors. Do not assume your company will not face penalties if the contractor you hire is employing illegal workers. ICE is concerned with employers who knowingly engage in this practice. It is in your company’s best interest to determine if your independent contractors employ workers who have legal authorization.
If you have not already done so, secure employment eligibility for each of your employees with the I-9 form. This form is required for both citizens and noncitizens of the United States who seek employment. The form is available online in Spanish and English or may be translated and prepared in other languages as needed.
Consider using E-Verify, a free internet-based system that allows businesses to determine their employees’ eligibility. E-Verify compares the information collected on the I-9 form against government records and alerts employers if there is a discrepancy. It is available through the Department of Homeland Security at https://www.e-verify.gov.
The Berkley Industrial Comp Difference
Lawfully, whether an employee is working legally or not, the employer must cover him or her under workers’ compensation insurance. No matter an employee’s status, Berkley Industrial Comp is here to ensure an injured employee receives appropriate medical care.
However, if an employee is concerned about his immigration status, he may be less likely to report an injury or safety concern. This affects the entire company’s culture of safety. By verifying your employee’s eligibility to work, you are not only protecting your company’s fiscal assets from fines. You are protecting your workers from situations which compromise the safety and accountability of all.
We recommend the usage of E-Verify to determine employment eligibility. This service is quick and easy to use. For further concerns regarding employees and work status, you may contact your Risk Assessment Management and Prevention (R.A.M.P.) team member. They will be happy to assist you in providing the safest working environment possible. When an employer knowingly hires workers who do not have the proper documentation, both the employer and worker can face penalties.