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Be Consistent. Be Consistent. Be Consistent.

In much of business, “thinking outside the box” or “going above and beyond” are valued traits in an employee. However, when it comes to the law, it’s always best to “stay the course.” One restaurant employer recently learned this lesson the hard way. During a re-verification of employment review, an immigrant employee was asked to provide different documentation than requested on the Form I-9 because the employee who requested the re-verification information thought it was OK to ask immigrant workers for different documentation. They were wrong. The employer paid back wages and civil penalties, must participate in anti-discrimination training, will have their employment verification process monitored for three years, and more, as a result of this incident.

Most Human Resources (HR) professionals are not lawyers, but their job demands they know key information in employment law. And ignorance of the law is no excuse. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on national origin, and other protected categories, in any aspect of employment, including hiring, termination, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 prohibits employers from discriminating with respect to employment opportunities, terms, or conditions of employment, based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.

Form I-9 is a tool provided to employers and should be used for all new hires, regardless of citizenship status. Only require the documents set forth on the Form I-9. If for any reason you need additional documentation, request the same documentation from all employees. Other notable facts about Form I-9 you should know:

  • Keep Form I-9s in separate files from personnel files.
  • There is a Spanish version of Form I-9 that you can use as reference only. Unless you are an employer in Puerto Rico, the English version of the form should be kept on file.
  • Maintain Form I-9 for either three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later.

What you don’t know can hurt your business. While there are plenty of opportunities to go above and beyond for your employees, many elements in HR compliance revolve around absolute consistency. Be sure you know the difference.


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