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Form I-9 audit

Follow These 5 Steps for an Effective Internal I-9 Audit

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Increased scrutiny from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on whether your employees are authorized to work in this country means that employers need to be fully aware of the state of their I-9 compliance. No business expects to be audited. But when fines for errors on I-9 forms can range from $216 to $2,156 per worker, knowing that those documents are error-free can give you peace of mind.

An internal I-9 audit – or I-9 self-audit – can help you accomplish that. It gives you time to correct errors or find missing information without the pressure of an official audit.

Additionally, when consistent self-audits are a standard business practice for your organization, it becomes easier to defend against claims of retaliation or discrimination. If your organization ever does undergo an official audit, robust, documented internal I-9 audits can prevent you from being hit with fines, and gives your HR department experience in conducting an efficient, accurate audit of I-9 forms.

Here’s what you need to know in order to conduct an internal I-9 audit in your organization.

Before conducting an internal I-9 audit

Ensure your internal audit strategy doesn’t violate discrimination laws. While ICE’s priority is to ensure all workers in the U.S. are authorized to work here, the priority of the Office of Special Council for Immigration Related Unfair Practices (OSC) in this context is to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against based on citizenship status or national origin.

Fortunately, the way your organization conducts its internal I-9 audit can help it comply with both ICE’s and OSC’s priorities. Here are ways you can ensure you aren’t swinging the balance in the other direction when conducting your internal audit and becoming vulnerable to accusations of discrimination:

  • If you use E-Verify, you must run cases for all your employees. You can submit an E-Verify case past the three-day deadline if an internal audit reveals that a new-hire case was not completed. You will have to select this as the reason for submitting late verification. However, do not go back and run E-Verify cases for employees who were hired when your company was not enrolled in the E-Verify service.
  • During your audit, if you conduct a selective I-9 audit (rather than auditing all employees’ I-9 forms), be careful to ensure truly random selection. We’ll talk more about how to do that in step 1.
  • If you need additional or updated employment authorization documents, you must allow the employee to choose his or her own forms of I-9 acceptable documents. However, if a document he or she originally provided is insufficient for employment authorization, you may request that same type of documentation is not submitted again. Not every expired document can be updated, so consult the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ M-274, Handbook for Employers, if you are uncertain.
  • Have translators/preparers available for employees who don’t speak English, if applicable.

5 Steps for conducting an internal I-9 audit:

Step 1. Decide whether you will audit a random selection – or all – employee I-9 forms.

If auditing a selection of I-9 forms, make sure you’re able to verify the selection was in fact random – for example, using Excel’s “RAND” and “RANK” functions and documenting your selection process can help.

Auditing a selection of forms will help you assess your onboarding procedures, but may not be as effective as a full audit in correcting form errors. An internal audit of all I-9 forms also minimizes liability for claims of discrimination or retaliation, so that’s the process we’ll focus on here.

Step 2. Gather employee data.

You’ll need a list of all employees hired after Nov. 6, 1986, as well as a list of all employees terminated within the last three years. Collect paper or electronic forms for both lists.

If your company uses paper I-9 forms, make sure you have forms from all locations, or ensure that your regional HR offices also are conducting an internal I-9 audit according to best practices.

To do that, identify which locations store paper I-9 forms: company headquarters, regional or field offices, or even different departments. If some locations have paper forms, while others have electronic I-9s, you may be able to improve the accuracy of your internal I-9 audit by getting your forms into the same format, either by printing online forms (which can be risky) or by uploading paper I-9s to a secure electronic storage location.

The latter is the safer option, in the event of theft or weather damage.

At this point, you can collect paper or electronic forms and conduct the audit in a centralized location, or you can guide the audits of other locations. You may wish to designate someone in HR headquarters to call weekly and track progress to ensure consistent I-9 compliance across locations.

Step 3. Compare I-9 forms to the lists of current and terminated employees.

Note which forms have errors, missing sections or missing documents. Keep track of any employees who never completed I-9 forms at all (as long as they were hired after Nov. 6, 1986). It may be helpful to create an audit log with three sections to help you keep track: employee’s name, errors found and the actions taken to correct the errors.

Step 4. Make note of changes that need to be made.

Keep these notes with the corresponding I-9 form either with a sticky note or a note on the electronic document. Avoid writing directly on a paper I-9 form.

If reviewing paper I-9 forms, determine a contingency plan if the sticky notes falls off or if water damage occurs. How will you prove the noted changes were made? An electronic backup of the notes (in the form of an audit log or something else) can help you guard against the unforeseeable.

Paycom clients: You easily can collect all employee I-9 forms from the Employment Authorization Dashboard in our Document and Task Management tool. You also can make dated, secure changes with just a couple of clicks through I-9 correction tasks or by uploading a signed and dated note to an employee’s file. That’ll save you a lot of time when it comes to collecting and correcting I-9 forms.

Step 5. Correct omissions or discrepancies.

When making corrections, be careful to avoid making misleading changes; – it should be exceedingly clear when the original form was completed and when the correction was made. Following correct compliance procedures means that both dates should be obvious to anyone reading the document, regardless of his or her level of familiarity with your company.

If minimal omissions or inaccurate information exist in Section 1:

  • The employee (or a translator/preparer if necessary) must make the change.
  • The employee should draw one line through the inaccurate information, enter or write the correct information, and initial and date the correct information.
  • If the employee needs assistance, the translator/preparer should draw one line through the incorrect info, and enter or write the correct information. Then the employee should initial and date the correct information, and the translator/preparer should initial and date the correction next to the employee’s initials.

If there are minimal omissions or inaccurate information in Section 2 or 3:

  • The employer must make the change.
  • The employer should draw a line through the incorrect information, enter or write the correct or omitted information, and initial and date the changes made.

If the form was never completed, is missing or has substantial errors:

  • Complete the current version of the I-9 form as soon as possible. Do not backdate the form.
  • Note the actual date employment began and attach a signed and dated explanation of the action taken, to show good-faith compliance effort.

If an employee’s employment authorization or employment authorization document has expired, or if an employee has changed names:

  • Complete Section 3 on the current version of the I-9 form for re-verification.
  • Keep the completed Section 3 with the original Form I-9.
  • Keep in mind that U.S. citizens and noncitizen nationals (lawful permanent residents who presented a Form I-551 for Section 2), List B documents should not be re-verified, even if now expired. If the document was expired when completing the original Form I-9, correct Section 2 instead.

If an E-Verify error is found, the necessary action depends on when the employee was hired:

  • If the employee was hired while your organization was participating in E-Verify, create an E-Verify case for him or her immediately.
  • If  the employee was hired before your organization was enrolled E-Verify, do not create an E-Verify case for him or her.

After completing your internal I-9 audit

Once your HR department has completed an audit of your organization’s I-9 forms, you may want to consider a postmortem meeting with the HR team to identify areas for improvement. Regardless, you should ensure safe, secure storage of your I-9 forms and any corresponding employment authorization documents.

In the postmortem meeting, identify issues or patterns that arose during the audit that need to be addressed. Are there certain elements or stages where your organization consistently struggles (such as consistently late or incomplete forms)? Do certain locations or departments have significant numbers of delayed or poorly completed forms? What can your HR department learn from the internal I-9 audit to improve your practices and policies?

Summarize the postmortem meeting in an email to any key stakeholders, like the HR professionals involved in the audit. It’s helpful to collect the lessons learned in writing to refer to during next year’s internal audit, and it can help you prove a good-faith effort to improve your I-9 compliance if you were to undergo an official audit.

Before moving on to the next initiative, it’s crucial to ensure safe, secure storage of your I-9 forms and any corresponding employment authorization documents.

Paper is the less secure way to store these documents, but if your I-9 documents are physical, make sure they’re stored in a location that’s safe from potential water and weather damage, and  accessible only to those who should have access. Create and document a contingency plan for natural disasters that might affect your copies, like a flood, hurricane or tornado.

Electronic storage is the more secure way to store I-9 forms and any corresponding employment authorization documents – and your due diligence can help ensure their safety. Ask your IT department or service provider about how securely electronic I-9 documents are saved. Are they stored on your company’s server? In the cloud? On a secure third-party server? How frequently are backups performed?

No matter how your documentation is stored, make sure it is easily accessible. In an official audit, you may have as little as a three-day turnaround to send I-9 documents to the government, so it’s important you can access these items quickly.

Enjoy post-audit peace of mind

An internal I-9 audit gives you time to correct form errors without the pressure of an official audit. You can rest assured that your forms are completed accurately and that your HR department will know how to quickly and accurately conduct an official audit, in case your organization is ever required to do so.

If you have access to Paycom’s Employment Authorization Dashboard, you can collect what you need to make corrections efficiently and securely. To request a meeting and see a demo, click here.

To read about more ways that moving away from manual, paper processes can give you peace of mind, download our executive summary on the topic, Discover the Hidden Cost of Manual Processes.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only. Accordingly, Paycom and the writer of the above content do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of the above information. It does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, or professional consulting. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other professional services.


lauren.rogers

by Lauren Rogers


Author Bio: As a communications specialist at Paycom, Lauren Rogers keeps employees abreast of company news and events, and provides insight to industry leaders regarding issues affecting human capital management. With experience in marketing and communications, Lauren has written blogs and other materials for a variety of businesses and nonprofits. Outside the office, she enjoys gardening, testing new recipes and sipping something caffeinated with her nose in a book.

a professional practicing Mindfulness in an open field at sunset.

How Mindfulness Benefits the Boardroom

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Often, “mindfulness” conjures up images of stillness in a yoga studio. But fast-paced executives are finding mindfulness and leadership also go hand in hand. Intentionally tuning in to daily tasks, people and events can actually benefit the boardroom as much as it does the boat pose.

 Why mindfulness matters

 Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” This mindset encourages people to slow down and focus on the present.

For many in upper management positions, slowing down feels more like a luxury than a reality. However, mindfulness can also occur by noticing actions as they happen.

Essentially, mindfulness exists in opposition to moving thoughtlessly from one task to the next and instead prioritizes focus, curiosity and openness. According to leadership expert John C. Maxwell, the highest level of leadership – Pinnacle leadership – requires intentionality.

Maxwell writes in his book The 5 Levels of Leadership Pinnacle leadership “requires longevity as well as intentionality … if you continually focus on both growing yourself at every level, and developing leaders who are willing and able to develop other leaders, you may find yourself at the Pinnacle.” Leaders who practice mindfulness have an edge on the focus and intentionality required to reach the highest level of leadership.

Proven benefits in the field

 Business behemoths like General Mills, Target and Google are part of the mindfulness movement. All three companies implemented mindfulness training programs and had improvements in leadership qualities like listening, productivity and decision-making.

Harvard Business Review detailed these companies’ mindfulness initiatives, noting “bringing mindfulness to the workplace has decreased people’s stress levels while improving focus and clarity, listening and decision-making skills, and overall well-being. Perhaps most importantly from a management perspective, mindfulness gives employees permission to think.”

Implementing mindfulness

Today’s leaders need to plan for tomorrow without sacrificing commitment to their day-to-day responsibilities. Though pursuing mindfulness can feel challenging in a fast-paced environment, working to increase levels of focus, curiosity and intentionality is worth the effort.

A few actionable ways you can implement mindfulness are:

  • taking the time to practice active listening during one-on-one meetings
  • remaining open to a company’s change and innovation trajectory
  • prioritizing clarity over speed during big decisions

These small steps can add significant depth to an individual’s leadership skills.

Learn more about improving as a leader (and achieving Pinnacle leadership) with this on-demand  Paycom webinar presented by John C. Maxwell. Whether you’re looking to lead your company to the next level or focusing on your own personal management skills, mindfulness can help you get there.

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Posted in Blog, Featured


Author Bio: Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

core values

Defining Game-Changing Core Values to Attract Superstar Talent

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March is over, but the madness HR deals with never ends. Fortunately, your organization’s core values can be a real game-changer in the competition for top talent. In a recent episode of the HR Break Room podcast, Kinetix CHRO Kris Dunn discussed the valuable lessons HR can learn from the annual college hoops competition.

Here is a sampling of our conversation on why core values matter – in basketball and in business.

The margins for talent are small

 When recruiting high-quality talent, organizations actually compete on a tight playing field, and like a single-elimination tournament, hiring is a one-and-done process. When an organization edges out other companies in the quest for top talent, it ultimately has the advantage over competitors, and may even move up to face much larger businesses as a result.

In college basketball today, nearly all universities that advance to the final games have chosen to grow their teams over several years, instead of recruiting superstars who play for one season before going pro. In developing talent for the long term, your organization can succeed against the competition too.

Listen to the full conversation with Kris Dunn in “Slam Dunk: Defining Game-Winning Core Values,” an episode of the HR Break Room podcast.

Define and promote core values to attract top talent

 Compare a successful business to any winning basketball team, and you will find a common thread: well-defined core values. This year’s tourney winner, Villanova, places a high value on learning and development by retaining players for multiple years. The value of practical education permeates the entire organization. Consequently, Villanova has a great skills development program.

When defining core values for your organization, it’s important to determine which traits support overarching strategic goals. Once these values have been determined, communicate and promote them to the outside world so you can attract talented individuals who share those values. To create the best possible experience for prospective candidates, these values must be transparent and consistently demonstrated within the organization.

Know what makes your organization special

 No two teams play the same way. Some apply pressure to opponents; some play a specific type of zone defense; and still others want to run out the clock. Similarly, each top-performing organization has its own unique company culture, driven by its core values.

Take any sample of American companies, and you’ll find various ways to make decisions, assign responsibility and define success. Differing approaches to culture directly reflect the core values of each organization, because your culture is born from the values most consistently on display.

For an entire organization to own its culture and core values, HR must invest in the company’s desired identity, and encourage leaders to go “all in.” This can help differentiate your organization from other companies competing for top talent, and give you an edge in identifying and recruiting prospective employees likely to make valuable contributions from day one.

Enjoy this article? check out Swish! 5 Talent Lessons I’ve Already Learned From the NCAA Tournament This March

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Posted in Blog, Featured

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Anonymous Sexual Harassment Reports

Building Employee Trust with Anonymous Sexual Harassment Reports

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Employee trust is one of the most important factors in handling sexual harassment complaints. Employees need to trust HR will listen to their concerns and will respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment. Yet the EEOC notes only about 30% of employees who experienced harassment reported the harassment internally within their company.

One way HR can help build trust with employees is with a robust system of reporting and investigation that allows anonymous complaints and communications.

If clear procedures are communicated to employees and consistently followed, an anonymous complaint process can help build trust that HR is prepared and committed to investigating harassment complaints in a fair and thorough manner.

Make a plan and stick to it

 As with all company policies, developing your procedure ahead of time, and following it when issues arise, are key to workplace fairness. Following the steps of a robust and outlined policy can also help limit company liability after an incident occurs by demonstrating the company seriously investigated the complaint and took appropriate action in accordance with its policy.

Providing the means for employees to make anonymous complaints can help employees trust their complaints will be handled discretely and appropriately, and can help lessen employee concerns about retaliation.

Some employers contract with an outside vendor to provide a third-party anonymous reporting system that will pass on complaints only to a specific person or group who needs to know of the complaint in order to investigate. The vendor can also allow the person making the report to specify individuals who may be involved in the behavior, so those people will not receive access to the anonymous report.

Follow up

 Take anonymous reports as seriously as any other type of report, including face-to-face complaints. Recognize the reasons an individual may wish to remain anonymous and be sensitive in your response.

Think of anonymous reporting as simply another pathway to allow your employees to share their concerns, in addition to the other methods available to them, like discussions with HR personnel or meetings with supervisors. Thoroughly investigate any complaint made, regardless of whether the person who filed a report chooses to remain anonymous or not.

Don’t promise more than you can deliver

 Communicate to employees that they can make a report of sexual harassment completely anonymously. However, if they choose to identify themselves in a complaint, don’t promise you will be able to keep their identity secret. Make clear you have a duty to investigate all complaints, and this may involve interviews with the person or people accused of taking part in inappropriate or harassing behavior.

Emphasize the company will follow its internal procedures. Do not imply or promise what may result from an investigation after an employee complaint is made. An anonymous complaint is the first step of a workplace investigation, and must be investigated in accordance with policy, just like any other type of report.

It’s important to take your company’s responsibilities seriously when you respond to sexual harassment complaints. A robust policy that allows anonymous reports and responds with an impartial and thorough investigation to each anonymous complaint can be an effective part of an overall anti-harassment strategy, and can help build and maintain employee trust in HR personnel and anti-harassment efforts.

 Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Featured

Erin Maxwell

by Erin Maxwell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Erin Maxwell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, focusing on health and employee benefits laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. She previously served as assistant general counsel at Asset Servicing Group in Oklahoma City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Outside of work, Maxwell enjoys politics, historical mysteries and spending time with her family.

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