New Sanction for Contractors Hiring Illegal Aliens (Immigration)

April 1, 1996 Advisory

A new Executive Order bans federal contracts for at least one year for employers that knowingly hire or retain illegal aliens.

For the past ten years, all employers have been subject to fines and criminal penalties for hiring undocumented workers. The magnitude of this new sanction for federal contractors, coupled with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services' ("INS") recent heightening of its enforcement policy to increase workplace investigations, means that all employers must be more vigilant than ever to properly verify an employee's eligibility for employment.

To verify employment eligibility, the law requires every employer to maintain a completed Form I-9 for every new employee hired. Section 1 of the I-9 entitled, "Employee Information and Verification," must be completed by the employee at the time of hire, and within three business days the employee must present, and the employer must examine the genuineness of, documentation establishing the employee's identity and employment eligibility. Form I-9 must be retained by the employer for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date of the employee's termination, whichever is later.

Completing and properly maintaining I-9's is an on-going responsibility. Common errors committed by employers include:

  • Failing to update expired work authorization dates.
  • Accepting as documentation unsigned social security cards or plastic reproductions of social security cards.
  • Failing to state work authorization time periods.
  • Accepting documents that do not establish employment eligibility or identity.
  • Failing to insert the date an employee started work.

Employers must review the work authorization documents for all new employees-not just those who appear to be foreign born. Significantly, it is never too late to complete the I-9 as late completion or correction of the form can mitigate penalties.