The world has become a much smaller place and that’s something every contractor needs to keep in mind when hiring employees and subcontractors. From immigrants who haven’t obtained the proper paperwork to join the workforce to youngsters looking to skirt labor laws for a summer job, keeping your crew legal is essential in order to keep you and your business out of legal trouble.
What Are the Penalties?
Failure to ensure your employees and subs are legally able to work could result in a minimum penalty of $375 per worker for the first offense up to a maximum of $1,600 per worker for subsequent offenses. If you regularly make a habit of it — legally termed “engaging in a pattern and practice” of hiring undocumented workers — you could face fines of up to $3,000 per employee and up to six months in jail. Knowingly violating child labor laws can net you a fine of up to $11,000 for the first offense, a penalty of $10,000 for the second offense with the added possibility of six months in prison.
Making A Good Faith Effort
When hiring an employee, regardless of residency status, you need to perform due diligence to make sure they’re legal to work within the United States. This applies to residents and non-residents alike. If you’re hiring someone directly to work on your crew as an employee, this means having them fill out an I-9 form. You don’t have to submit the form to any agency, but you need to keep it on file for inspection by the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security and Office of Special Council for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices as well as any other government agency if requested.
An I-9 form from the Internal Revenue Service gives you the opportunity to record vital details about your employees and provides a record you’ve checked relevant identification. For resident citizens, things like a government-issued ID and birth certificate are sufficient, while foreign workers may provide a passport and visa. The form includes a list of acceptable documentation to verify employment eligibility.
What About Subcontractors?
When hiring on a subcontractor to work on your crew, they are not required to fill out an I-9 form, but it’s good practice to check and document ID and eligibility to keep with your records should you need to prove that you’re hiring a legal labor supply. The penalties for hiring those who are ineligible to work still apply, even if the paperwork requirements are less stringent. Check IDs and keep a record on file to keep yourself liability free.
What If My Worker’s Documents are Fake?
By complying with best labor practices, including checking IDs for subcontractors and filling out I-9 forms for employees, you’re covering yourself from the majority of liability should your worksite be the subject of a labor inspection. As long as you’ve made a reasonable effort to ensure the legal ability of your crew to work within the United States and had no reason to suspect fraud or other circumstances in which a person may illegally obtain work, then you’re not likely to face liability if documents like ID cards or visas are found to be falsified.
Hiring Legal Workers for Your Gigs
You don’t need to go above and beyond to prove your workforce is legal to work within the United States — in fact, singling out people who appear to have the correct documents to work could land you in a whole different mess of legal trouble. Comply with the usual labor laws and regulations and consult with your lawyer if you have any problems or questions.
Have you ever unknowingly hired an undocumented worker or an underage worker? How did you handle the situation when you discovered it?