I-9 Compliance For Mass Hires

While the spread of the coronavirus is causing some of the highest unemployment rates the nation has seen in years, many essential industries such as grocery retail, delivery services, and pharmacies are ramping up their hiring processes to accommodate the fast onboarding of staff. However, even in this time of crisis, companies must still maintain I-9 compliance for mass hires.

In addition to the increased pace of hiring which can be taxing for human resources departments, employers are now struggling to manage the Form I-9 process with some small changes brought about by these unprecedented times amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If your company is onboarding employees now, it is crucial to be familiar with the I-9 compliance process to protect yourself against future violations.

 

The Most Common Challenges for I-9 Compliance for Mass Hires

Even though some local offices of a company may be actively working, their corporate offices could be working remotely, which can be tricky when it comes to completing a hire that is Form I-9 compliant.  Some of the most common challenges for I-9 compliance for mass hires during coronavirus can include the ability for:

  • Employees and employers to fill out the Form I-9, specifically sections two and three
  • Employees to present employment authorization documents in person, face to face
  • Employers to review authorization documents in person for authenticity

 

Temporary Guidelines For Companies Operating Remotely That Wish To Hire

If an entire company’s workforce is working remotely during this difficult time, as of April 2020, they may have some flexibility regarding the inspection of authorization documents. It may be possible to virtually examine an employee’s authorization documents via fax, web-based conferencing, or a video call and consider them valid if:

  • The entire company is working remotely
  • The remote work policy is documented in house and with the Department of Homeland Security
  • The virtual method of inspection is documented on the Form I-9, specifically on sections two and three
  • A proper in person review of the employee’s authorization documents is done within three days following the expiration of the COVID-19 national emergency and is documented as such

As of April 2020, the virtual review of employment authorization documents is valid only until May 19, 2020 or three days after the national emergency is lifted. It is important to note that the coronavirus national emergency is a somewhat fluid situation, so it is crucial for employers to be certain what the hiring rules are at the time of hire to prevent being assigned noncompliance violations at a later date.

 

 

Temporary Guidelines For Companies Still Operating Regularly In Part That Wish To Hire

The rules are somewhat different for companies that are still operational, in part, with open offices.  While these companies may have flexibility in terms of selecting third-party authorized representatives to review an employee’s authorization documents, documents may not be reviewed virtually.

As of April 2020, employers that have at least one open office must still present employee authorization documents in person. However, an employer may temporarily be allowed to designate a third-party as an official authorized representative to review authorization documents and complete the Form I-9 in person.

Employers should be aware that federal and state guidelines regarding third-party designations may be different. For example, while a federal guideline may allow for a third-party to be designated as seen fit, some states require the third-party to have additional qualifications such as being a public notary.

 

I-9 Compliance Consequences

Despite the unique hiring challenges businesses across the nation are currently facing, the hiring process is to be taken seriously. Hiring companies may still be held liable for I-9 compliance violations made during the coronavirus pandemic, even those committed by a designated third-party.

 

Reducing Compliance Risks For Employers Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic

While the need may be extreme for many companies to do mass hires to effectively serve the public, they are and will be held to federal I-9 compliance standards. To help combat possible overwhelming pressure on an employer’s human resources department during an already chaotic time, it may be worth enlisting the help of a compliance professional.

Lookout Services has more than twenty years of experience in assisting employers with onboarding employees in regard to proper I-9 compliance. In addition to their professional and knowledgeable staff, Lookout Services also offers digital I-9 compliance software which features the following:

  • Checklists for employees so they can review, in advance, the items needed to complete a Form I-9
  • Checklists for employers to keep each new employee on task in completing the Form I-9
  • A paperless, digital solution
  • Form deadline alerts for employers
  • Minimization of common Form I-9 errors such as blank spaces, incomplete fields, and missing signatures
  • The ability to track expiring documents and alert employers accordingly before it becomes a compliance issue
  • Assistance with document archiving
  • Centralized reporting
  • An optional interface with the federal E-Verify program complete with auto-population of E-Verify fields
  • Audit assistance such as mass prints of I-9 records and attachments

 

Don’t let a hasty mass hiring process put your company at risk for punitive consequences down the line. Consider a consultation with Lookout Services today to keep your company I-9 compliant through the pandemic and beyond.

How To Stay I-9 Compliant During Pandemic Related Closures

Employers that are hiring in the midst of these uncertain times are struggling with how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures. Many of these closures are affecting the validity of employee authorization documents and how employers can document special COVID-19 document extensions. By enlisting the help of a company that provides professional I-9 compliance guidance, employers may be better able to navigate the winding road ahead.

 

COVID-19 Temporary Guidelines For Hiring

As some companies continue to hire employees during these pandemic related closures, staying I-9 compliant is proving to be a challenge. To make things even more confusing there can be subtle differences on compliance rules depending on if a company’s entire workforce is working remotely or if at least some of their locations are physically open.

For companies that are entirely working remotely during the pandemic as of April 2020, there are some allowances being made for the virtual inspection of employee authorization documents through platforms such as web-based conferencing, fax, or virtual calls. To be eligible to do so, companies must do the following:

  • Have the entire workforce work remotely
  • Document the remote work policy with the Department of Homeland Security
  • Document the method of virtual inspection on the Form I-9 in sections two and three
  • Review tangible employee authorization documents in person within three days following the expiration of the end of the COVID-19 national emergency (or May 19, 2020) and then properly document this action

Companies that have at least some locations operating as normal, do not have the luxury of virtually inspecting employee authorization documents. However, they may be allowed to have a third-party act as an official authorized representative in reviewing authorization documents. Employers should note that some states may have more stringent rules on third-party designations than the national guidelines.

Whether employers are working remotely or have some physical locations open, it is crucial that they frequently check on government policy during this time of unprecedented change.

 

DMV Closures Affecting Employees Completing I-9 Forms

In this time of national business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, many states have Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that are either closed or offering only limited services.

Unfortunately, this can have an unwelcome trickledown effect on employees attempting to successfully complete a Form I-9 for their employer. The primary problem with limited or no DMV services is that employees may have no other choice but to use an expired driver’s license as a form of identification on an I-9.

To help combat this issue, some states are extending the expiration date of state IDs and/or driver’s licenses.  While helpful, this presents a challenge for employers on how to document this unusual and temporary extension. The following steps may be helpful in this case:

  1. For employees with a driver’s license or state ID that is expired on or after March 1, 2020 in a state that has extended document expiration dates due to COVID-19, these forms of identification may still be acceptable as a List B document.
  2. To protect against I-9 violations, employers must document the acceptance of these documents in Section 2 of the form and enter the term COVID-19 EXT in the Additional Information Field.
  3. For added protection, employers should attach a copy of the DMV’s webpage or other supporting documentation as proof of the document extension.

Employers should check their state’s Motor Vehicle Administration or Department of Motor Vehicle’s website to confirm if they have or have not auto-extended the expiration date of driver’s licenses and state IDs.

 

How DMV Closures or Limited Services May Affect the E-Verify Process

Some companies either voluntarily or by mandate use the federal E-verify system to complement the Form I-9 process. Expired driver’s licenses and state IDs can cause some issues with E-verify as well.

In the case that an employee has an expired driver’s license or state ID that is eligible for an extended expiration date in their state due to COVID-19, employers should enter the actual expiration date of the employee’s document for E-verify purposes.

That said, the coronavirus crisis is causing many standard procedures to be reevaluated on an almost daily basis. Employers should check E-verify’s website daily for frequently asked questions to ensure proper procedure is being followed.

 

How Professional I-9 Compliance Guidance May Be Helpful

Learning how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures is just one of many issues that employers currently have on their plates, and it is overwhelming for many. Employers may want to consider enlisting the help of a company who specializes in professional I-9 compliance to assist with lightening their load and helping them stay on top of COVID-19 related compliance issues.

Lookout Services has provided I-9 guidance to employers for more than twenty years and offers digital I-9 compliance software that features the following:

  • A digital solution for I-9 compliance
  • Printable checklists for employees and employers to help keep everyone on task for completing the Form I-9 in advance of section deadlines
  • Time sensitive alerts for employers regarding impending deadlines
  • Minimization of frequently made Form I-9 errors such as incomplete fields, blank fields, and missing signatures
  • Document tracking
  • Document archiving assistance

 

Let Lookout Services assist you in learning how to stay I-9 compliant during pandemic related closures.  Call us to set up a virtual consultation today.