Companies who offer lawn services face some of the biggest obstacles in terms of I-9 compliance. While they must meet the standards set forth by the federal government, they do not have to bear this burden alone. Increasingly, modern companies are turning to I-9 compliance experts for assistance in avoiding common errors and mistakes that can come with painful consequences.
Compliance Challenges for Companies Offering Lawn Services
While businesses nationwide are required by federal law to verify that they are hiring individuals that are authorized to work in the U.S. via the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, landscaping and lawn service companies may be at a greater disadvantage thanks to obstacles such as:
The landscaping industry is known for its high turnover rates. This is due in part to employees who leave to pursue other job opportunities and individuals who are unable to work due to personal situations. As the seasons change and there is less demand for lawn services and landscaping in the winter, a company’s employees may seek work elsewhere in the interim. When work picks up again in the spring, some of these same employees will return while others will not.
Small managerial staff:
Because much of the work of lawn services is hands on and labor intensive, these companies tend to have a relatively small managerial staff of only a couple of positions. This means that the hiring of employees for the entire company may be a responsibility carried by just one or two people. Bearing the brunt of this workload alone can be particularly overwhelming during times such as the spring and summer when new hires happen almost weekly.
Out of Town Employees:
It is not unusual for some lawn service employees to leave their family behind in another part of the country or in a different country to find this type of work. For this reason, it is also not unusual for these same individuals to take extended periods of time throughout the year to return home to visit their families. Whether the hiring staff is tasked with rehiring the person upon their return or hiring another individual in their place, it can create a heavier I-9 compliance workload.
The good news is that by enlisting the help of I-9 experts who have designed digital compliance software, even obstacles like these can become less of an issue for management staff handling them.
The Consequences for Compliance Violations Can Be Steep
Landscaping and lawn services companies are held to the same I-9 compliance rules and regulations as any other company in the United States. It is not a suggestion to follow these rules, it is the law. A company’s federal I-9 compliance violations could open them up to serious consequences such as hefty punitive fines or even closure of the business.
There are three sections of the Form I-9. The first is generally completed by the employee. The second requires the employer to review approved identification documents for authorization. The last section of the form is for employers to complete if any authorization documents have expired or require reverification. Each section of the form must be completed as directed on the form. This includes individual completion deadlines.
Problems can arise when errors such as the following happen:
- Incomplete fields
- Missing signatures
- Missed deadlines
- Improper retainment or storage of completed forms
Any of these errors can result in a violation per employee. This means that if several employees forget to sign their Form I-9, each one of those forms can be considered a violation. For lawn services companies with ten employees or more, the fines associated with these mistakes can be devastating for their bottom line.
It is also worth noting that in the event of an audit, if it is determined that an employer knowingly hired or continues to employ unauthorized workers, the company can be fined for each instance. Should a landscaping or lawn services company have two employees that fall into this category, the violation could cost the business up to thousands of dollars for each penalty. Falsified or fraudulent documents are also grounds for I-9 violations and can come with a fine of thousands of dollars.
How I-9 Experts Can Help Lawn Services Companies with I-9 Compliance
There are resources to help employers with navigating the Form I-9 and compliance issues.
The Handbook for Employer’s M-274 is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website as a PDF and can be printed. This resource is something employers can consult and use for increased understanding and training as needed.
However, particularly in situations in which the number of management positions handling and processing new hires is limited to one or two people, a beneficial and real time interactive solution is digital I-9 compliance software. These programs are specifically designed to help companies establish and maintain compliance with federal hiring mandates while also streamlining the everyday hiring process.
Digital I-9 compliance software is becoming increasingly popular among employers today because of the benefits it offers, such as:
The program’s goal is to help onboard employees in a more seamless manner that is both easy and user-friendly.
This software can help alert employers to common errors like incomplete or blank fields as well as missing signatures before the form is officially submitted and those errors become a costly compliance issue.
Digital I-9 software is helpful in providing employers with examples of how an acceptable document should look to help them have a higher degree of confidence when verifying the authenticity of an employee’s documentation.
The software is also designed to provide the user with timely alerts to help employers keep better track of approaching deadlines before they become a compliance issue.
Companies who offer lawn services or landscaping do not have to fear processing new hires with a small management crew if they have the help of I-9 experts who understand how the system works and how to make it work for the employer.