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.
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