August 13, 2019

The I-9 Form and How It Affects You

By Paul Bieber

The US government I-9 form must be filled out no later than an employee’s first day of employment, by the employer and the employee. No middle ground here. No amount of smiling and being nice to an inspector will get you out of this simple requirement.

It doesn’t take long, maybe five minutes. If needed, you must supply a Spanish speaking person to help an applicant. Most potential employees will know about this, so it should be just about automatic. Sounds really simple, and it is. But there are a few roadblocks that you need to be aware of.

Keep the finished form in a secure, locked file that doesn’t allow access by anyone except ownership or executive officers and your personnel people. In a small glass shop, this is one and the same. If you are a leader in a slightly larger company, every couple of months stop by personnel and look at the I-9s filed recently.  Keep the forms for at least one year after an employee leaves you.

Okay, that’s it except for one small detail.  What happens if you don’t have a form on file, or it is filled out wrong or fraudulently?  No excuses work here.  You will be fined by Uncle Sam, and the fines can get hefty if it appears you are ignoring the law repeatedly.

But wait, I have never had an inspection and I don’t do things that would cause one.  Surprise!  All of us in the glass industry are in a safety-hazard industry.  An employee who gets a small cut, no problem.  But what about a serious accident?  What about one of your driver’s being involved in an accident even if not his fault?  What about you are late filing taxes and Uncle Sam knocks on your door?  You will be in a large pile of grief that will cost you money and a significant amount of time to resolve.  There is absolutely no excuse you can make for not having the I-9 for every employee.  Rarely, if ever, does Uncle Sam come visit you to look at I-9s.  But if he is there for anything else, beware.

Seriously heavy fines will occur for disregarding this simple requirement.  In extreme cases there can be jail time, but this is rare.  Not sure what to do, google “I-9” and you will see many websites offering help.