Companies who have been audited know better than most that I-9 compliance is also brand protection. Unfortunately, this can come at the cost of having sacrificed themselves so that others can learn from their mistakes. Some of these affected companies lose money, workers, or in severe cases, possibly even the right to continue doing business. Any of these consequences can in turn impact their credibility with customers and industry partners, both now and in the future.
To avoid finding yourself in this position, it is critical to understand why a commitment to I-9 compliance is essential to brand protection, and how to be proactive in this regard.
Why Corporations Can Differ in Their Commitment to I-9 Compliance
It can be perplexing as to why some companies are more committed to the I-9 compliance process than others considering it is federal law, yet it is a reality. Some of the most common reasons a company chooses not to pay close attention to their I-9 compliance processes include:
- Visibility. Some companies mistakenly believe they are too small to be on a federal government agency’s radar. When it comes to the eyes of federal law, a small mom and pop operation must follow the same I-9 compliance procedures as that of a large corporation. For a company to base their I-9 protocol on the odds that officials will continuously overlook them is a dangerous risk that could prove to be costly.
- Industry. Historically, some industries have at times received a higher percentage of official audits by governmental agencies than others. Those in the hospitality, restaurant, and construction industries may be more predisposed to receive an audit. The problem in assuming that a company is safe because they are not in a commonly audited industry is that it is incorrect. All companies in the United States are held to the same I-9 standards, and if they are audited and violations are found, penalties may be assigned.
- Onboarding volume. In industries such as restaurants, hospitality, or seasonal work that can experience higher turnover rates, the volume of onboarding happening at one time can become overwhelming. Without enough personnel or proper training, the increased and fast-paced workload can become a compliance problem waiting to happen.
Following any one of these three schools of thought can be a costly way to learn that I-9 compliance is also brand protection. Without it, a company could be leaving themselves open to more than just violations.
How Not Being I-9 Compliant Could Tarnish Your Brand
While I-9 compliance is widely acknowledged as a mandatory federal law, it less commonly accepted that I-9 compliance is also brand protection. In years past, compliance might not have been part of the standard marketing plan, but today it has a valid seat at the table.
Consider the following scenario. A corporation is looking to establish a relationship with a nearby restaurant to cater boxed lunches for their business meetings and conferences. In year two of this partnership, the small restaurant the corporation selected is audited by the federal government and compliance violations are found to exist for multiple employees.
In this situation, there could potentially be several unfavorable outcomes, such as:
- The financial penalties assigned to the restaurant eat away at their funding to the extent that they lose staff or are forced to close their doors.
- The corporation may be caught off guard with no one to make or deliver the lunches they preordered.
- There is a possibility that the federal agency might then look into the corporation’s I-9 compliance as well.
This is not a situation that any restaurant, corporation, or company wants to find themselves in. Not only is it inconvenient, but it can also cause a ripple effect that could render additional damage.
Using this lens, it is not hard to see why I-9 compliance is also brand protection. Companies that are seeking to do business with others may now stop to ask about the entity’s commitment to I-9 compliance with questions about how it is implemented and if they regularly perform self-audits as a way of being proactive.
When a business starts to view I-9 compliance as a form of brand protection, they are investing in the safety and stability of their own company, as well as that of other companies that they may do business with in the future. A positive benefit of taking these steps is that they may be better positioned to be more competitive in securing a partnership with another company.
How Using An I-9 Intelligence Service Can Help
I-9 compliance is easier with the right resources, training, and implementation. Many employers become concerned that they will not be able to sustain adherence to compliance procedures on top of all the other responsibilities they handle each day.
Fortunately, there are resources in place that are designed to help. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers a guidance manual called the Handbook for Employers M-274 for completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (the Form I-9). It is available for downloading and may be printed for easy reference. It then becomes the responsibility of a company’s management or human resources team to read and use the manual to better facilitate compliance procedures.
While this is a helpful resource, many modern businesses are turning to digital I-9 compliance software to help streamline the compliance process without having to read and memorize an instruction manual first.
Digital I-9 compliance software can offer the following perks in helping an employer stay on top of proper procedures:
- Onboarding Assistance. The onboarding of a single employee is a multi-step process. To help both the employer and employee keep track of the action items that must be completed in a timely manner, the system is equipped to provide print outs of checklists for each.
- Reducing the Incidence of Common Mistakes. Due to the amount of forms processed and the various guidelines and deadlines for each section of the from, mistakes can happen. Some of the most frequently made errors can be leaving a field incomplete or empty, particularly those that require signatures. The software is designed to alert the user to these problems before they become a compliance issue.
- Keeping track of expiring documents. Part of the process is for employees to present employers with identification and/or authorization to work documents, most of which have an expiration date. The system will help track these expiration dates and alert users to an upcoming date so it can be addressed before it becomes a problem.
- Assisting in the archiving of documents. There are strict rules regarding how I-9 forms should be stored, archived, and disposed of. The software program can help guide employers in this process.
- Allowing informal audits. Digital I-9 compliance software can help a company conduct an informal audit. This allows them to see where the problem areas are and address them going forward so that things can be put back on track in the event that an official audit is conducted.
A company who utilizes digital I-9 compliance software may be an attractive asset for a company that is looking to partner with them.
The realization that I-9 compliance is also brand protection is about more than just saving face. It can also help protect your name and credibility in a way that impacts your standing, both today and in the future.
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