Where Compliance Matters the Most

Let’s keep it clear from the get-go – I’m not a lawyer, I’m only a layman. A layman who’s been filling out these forms for myself for decades. A layman who’s also hired new employees and have had them fill out these very same forms.

When I had new employees fill one of these Form I-9’s, they couldn’t start employment until they completed it and signed it and provided one of six pieces of identification that establish both identity and employment authorization including a U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card.

And if they didn’t have one of those, then they had to have:

  1. A driver’s license or ID card issued by a State or outlying possession of the United States provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address (or something else from a list of 12 total items)
  2. And a Social Security Account Number card (or something else from a list of eight total items)

The above is taken directly from the instructions of the I-9 form. When I completed them they usually included the latter, the driver’s license and/or state ID card and SSN card, and I’d photo copy them and submit them with the completed and signed I-9, W-4 and other pertinent new employee paperwork.

All of this was done manually because the volume of hires was nominal compared to larger companies processing thousands of new hires per year. But again, if they didn’t have the right forms of identification, they didn’t start work.

Period. End of sentence.

So that’s why I just don’t understand how companies time and time again keep making the same errors, get audited and then fined. For example, Hartmann Studios was ordered recently to pay one of largest fines ever for Form I-9 paperwork violations. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fined the company over $600K for more than 800 violations of I-9 forms. When you start digging, you find example after example of companies screwing up on this one.

The Form I-9, or Employment Eligibility Verification form, has been required since 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. It was revised in 2013 and that’s when the U.S. government and ICE cranked up the volume even more on ensuring I-9 compliance.

But even when you read the instructions to fill out an I-9 form and your eyes glaze over a little, it’s still one of the easiest required pieces of compliance paperwork U.S. employers can and should be able to complete properly each and every time. Todd Owens, CEO of TalentWise, concurred on this point on the TalentCulture #TChat Show. He made it clear that, while he is also not a lawyer, his technology company does offer onboarding software and his team works with many organizations ensuring they remain compliant when it comes to hiring and new employee paperwork.

The bottom line is this – most companies want and need to scale over time to be successful. They need to sustain that growth and they’ll need the right talent to do it. That means the ideal goal for HR in any organization is building the best performing teams and finding the greatest talent. But that doesn’t come easy – HR can’t focus on talent acquisition and management unless compliance is addressed.

Compliance is a necessity that HR cannot ignore, but it’s increasingly complex, both in our own country and even more so as you enter the global market and have to deal with regulations from other parts of the world. But the I-9 form? C’mon.

But even with mastering the I-9 form, HR technology providers that offer onboarding software need to be scaling partners to their scaling customers so they stay compliant locally and globally. They can and should reduce their risk and so they can focus on what matters the most – growing the business and generating revenue. That’s where compliance matters the most.