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Feb 2013
01
February 01, 2013

Community College Fined for Form I-9 Practices


One of the largest community colleges in the country, Houston Community College (HCC), entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this week to resolve allegations that it violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The allegations related to  the way in which HCC completed Form I-9s when it hired non-U.S. citizens. 

The DOJ charged that HCC required non-U.S. citizens to provide specific types of work authorization documentation, while not requiring the same from U.S. citizens. HCC will pay $83,600 in civil penalties and $20,000 to a back pay fund to compensate the potential victims it employed. In addition, HCC will be subject to two years of monitoring of its employment eligibility practices and various training requirements.

The INA requires that employees complete Form I-9s, which attest to their authorization to work in the U.S., by the end of the first day of employment. The INA also requires employers to review documentation establishing identity and work authorization and complete the remainder of the I-9 by the end of the third business day of employment.

In the past couple of years, the Department of Homeland Security has dramatically increased the number of I-9 audits and the fines it levies for technical and substantive violations. Traditionally, enforcement efforts have largely ignored the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions, focusing instead on the employers’ obligations to turn away new hires without documentation and on proper completion of the deceptively complex Form I-9. However, the HCC case is one example of the increased enforcement of the anti-discrimination provisions.

Unfortunately, many employers unwittingly violate the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions by implementing what they believe to be merely robust procedures to prevent hiring undocumented workers, even those procedures that employers may apply equally to citizens and non-citizens.

Warner Norcross & Judd successfully defends employer I-9 audits and regularly conducts training and internal audits of I-9 practices, including scrutiny of compliance with INA’s anti-discrimination provisions. If you have questions or need help with Form I-9, please contact Sarah Howard (showard@wnj.com or 616.752.2541) or any other member of Warner's Higher Education Industry Group.

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