How Offering Professional Development Opportunities to Employees Helps Your Small Business

Continuing education platforms are a great way to develop employee skills, boost morale and improve recruitment efforts.

Employers are often on the hunt for job benefits that they can add at a low cost to improve recruitment efforts and boost employee morale. When these benefits also positively impact productivity, they’re a win-win for worker and employer.

No benefit does a better job at checking all these boxes than professional development opportunities for your employees. These include things like online learning platforms, paid junkets to seminars and workshops, and even employer-sponsored schooling. Educational opportunities allow employees to grow their skills and pursue their professional goals, while also integrating what they’ve learned into their day-to-day responsibilities in the workplace.

What are some popular professional development benefits?

Professional development opportunities come in many shapes and sizes. They include online learning, workplace-hosted events, offsite seminars and workshops, and membership in professional organizations. Professional development can also include employer support for schooling costs in some cases.

Today’s employees are unmistakably anxious to learn and get new skills, and the appropriation of innovation to empower employees’ learning enables associations to lift worker bliss while enhancing their capacity to hold ability.

Many employers also offer access to online learning platforms, such as Lynda or Degreed. These platforms allow employees to guide their own learning with preset pathways, as well as for managers to create their own pathways that could help employees grow in their organizational roles. They also include reward or gamification opportunities to further incentivize learning.

According to the 2017 Employee Benefits Report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the most common types of educational and professional development opportunities employers offer include professional organization memberships, offsite events, and workplace training or courses.

Another common professional development benefit is tuition reimbursement. A survey of 2,000 employees conducted by Better Buys found that 53 percent of respondents had access to tuition reimbursement programs sponsored by their employer. Employers can obtain a tax write-off for up to $5,250 of educational assistance benefits every year.

Regardless of how you plan to make continued education a part of your business growth, you need to do it. Investing in your employees is one of the best ways to show you care about them personally.

How does professional development benefit employers?

There are three major ways professional development opportunities come back to employers. Professional development benefits help employers recruit new talent, retain their existing employees, and cultivate skills that will be used for the benefit of the company.

Whether an employee stays for decades or not, offering continuing education is still worth it.  It is a nice perk for recruiting that shows the company cares about the employee’s growth, and even if the employee is only there for a couple of years, it’s better to have more highly skilled employees for the same price.

According to SHRM’s report, 48 percent of HR professionals cited training and education programs as the most effective recruiting tool at their disposal.

The Better Buys survey found that 78 percent of respondents currently have access to professional development, while 92 percent of respondents believe access is important or very important. According to the survey results, employees with access to professional development opportunities are 15 percent more engaged in their jobs, which led to a 34 percent higher retention rate. This means those employees are not only more productive day to day, but less likely to leave their positions, which saves employers an average turnover cost of 6-9 months of an employee’s salary.

Hiring is expensive and time-consuming.  It is often easier and cheaper to retain your own talent, or hire from within. Training or up-skilling employees opens an additional talent pool for the employer that they already had.

Professional development is a clear benefit to employees who want to improve their skills and value in the marketplace. It can help them earn a promotion internally or continue pursuing their career goals elsewhere, as their marketability to employers increases. However, it is also a boon for employers, who reap the benefits of a more skilled, satisfied workforce and an attractive tool for drawing in new, intrinsically motivated employees. Employer-sponsored professional development opportunities are the definition of a win-win.

What Are the Important HR Requirements for Small Business?

There are also some basic requirements you have to fulfill as a small business owner. When people come to work for you, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, to comply with relevant employment laws in your country, to keep good records, and to pay salaries and benefits promptly and effectively.

Small business team human resources

In this blog, we’ll dive into these topics and show you how to comply with these important human resource requirements in your small business. They may not be the most exciting things you’ll do in your small business, but they are critical if you want to have happy, productive employees—and avoid some organizational or legal headaches down the road.

Note: When you’re reading this blog, keep in mind that it’s aimed at a U.S. audience. Employment laws and other regulations vary widely depending on the country you’re based in—and sometimes there are local regulations to be aware of for your city, state, province, etc. So although we’re going to go through some general examples here, based on U.S. regulations, be sure to check your local situation, and ideally get professional legal advice to make sure you’re complying with all relevant laws in your area.

If you think occupational safety or “health & safety” regulations are just about annoying government red tape, here’s a shocking statistic for you: in the United States in 2015 alone, 4,836 employees died from injuries sustained in the workplace.

Let those numbers sink in for a while.

It should be clear, then, that your first and most important responsibility as a small business owner is to keep your employees safe. So in this first section, we’ll go through some basic principles of occupational safety.

Start by analyzing your workplace and the processes your employees have to follow. Look for potential dangers and make a comprehensive inventory.

Some workplaces are more obviously dangerous than others—the risks at a manufacturing site where workers handle toxic chemicals and heavy machinery are easier to see than those at an office, for example. But in any workplace, things can go wrong.

Every year in the U.S., for example, 27 people die and over 10,000 are injured by elevators. Thousands of people injure themselves, sometimes seriously, by tripping over loose wires, open desk drawers, objects left in passageways, and so on. Poorly designed workstations and office chairs can leave employees vulnerable to back pain, repetitive motion injuries, and other serious ailments. An old or badly maintained building can create any number of hazards, from faulty wiring to loose ceiling tiles.

So start by compiling a list of potential hazards. You may be able to have an experienced health and safety professional visit your workplace and conduct a free survey as part of a subsidized government program. Or you could pay for a private consultant to do it.

Encourage employees to alert you to anything they see in their jobs that is potentially unsafe—they are the best resource to help you compile the initial safety inventory and then keep it updated.

Once you’ve assessed the risks, try to eliminate as many hazards as you can, and where you can’t eliminate them, at least aim to control them and reduce their likelihood.

Usually this involves setting up particular procedures that every employee should follow (e.g. when you’re operating this machine, you must wear eye protection and check that the safety catch is functioning properly). Then make sure everyone knows the procedures, that they’re properly documented, and that signs or posters are in place to remind people.

Here are some other important steps:

  • Make a plan for regular maintenance of the building and of any equipment that employees use.
  • Have a plan for medical emergencies and post emergency numbers prominently.
  • Train some employees in first aid procedures and make sure people know who they are and how to reach them.
  • Have a procedure for reporting injuries and make sure people know it.
  • Train all employees in health and safety procedures to ensure they know what to do.
  • Create an emergency plan and conduct frequent drills.

Identifying the risks and putting controls in place is great, but what if your employees still don’t follow the right procedures? It’s critical that everyone takes workplace safety seriously, and you can set that tone by your own actions.

Demonstrating your commitment to employee workplace safety will encourage your staff to take the subject seriously too, and it may help avoid accidents. On top of that, it shows that you value them and their physical well-being, so it sends a powerful message that may improve their general happiness and job satisfaction.

So create a clear policy on workplace safety and health, and post it prominently around the office and on the intranet or company website. Hold meetings to communicate the policy in person, and hold managers and employees accountable for complying with it.

Keep reviewing and updating your policy and procedures regularly, encouraging input and suggestions from employees. And if you’re requiring people to do extra work to ensure procedures are followed, make sure they have the time and resources to do that effectively.

Following all of these steps will not immunize you from workplace accidents, but it will help reduce their likelihood and create a safer work environment for everyone.

Employment laws are a key part of small business human resource requirements and they can be very complex. These laws govern small businesses too, so you need to be up to speed and make sure you’re complying with all the regulations.

One of the most common forms of employment law deals with the issue of equal opportunity. Essentially, you should not discriminate in your hiring practices based on gender, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc. And you should have clear policies in place to guard against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. You may also be required to put up notices in the workplace to inform employees of their rights and your compliance with the relevant laws.

A few examples of the laws affecting this area in the U.S.:

  • Civil Rights Act
  • Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) regulations
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Americans With Disabilities Act

Workers in many countries have the right to organize and bargain collectively or join a union. They often have the right to be paid overtime if they work extra hours, and to have a certain number of work breaks during the day.

There may be rules on how much vacation time or other benefits you have to provide—and if you provide paid vacation and employees don’t use it, you may have to pay them the monetary equivalent. And there are many more rights, both large and small, that workers have fought for over the years and had codified in law.

Sometimes there are exceptions—for example, in the U.S., salaried workers are generally exempt from the laws around overtime and work breaks, and independent contractors are exempt from many of the rules that apply to permanent employees. But you need to be careful about how you classify people, because there are rules about that too, and it’s easy to fall foul of them.

Also, don’t forget about things like parental leave and medical leave. You must allow employees to take time off according to the laws in your country, and make sure their job is still available for them when they return.

We covered the principles of workplace safety in the last section, but there may also be specific laws and regulations you need to comply with and posters you need to display in the workplace. So in addition to the work you do to provide a safe workplace, make sure you’re following all the relevant rules as well.

Filing is not the most exciting task you’ll ever do, but it’s important. The good news is that the requirements are quite simple—you just need to keep a file (or files, as we’ll see in a minute) for each employee, containing important information about their employment. And, most importantly, you’ll need to keep these files very secure, because they contain sensitive information.

Ideally, you’ll have two separate files for each employee: one for general employment information, and another for medical information.  Here’s what should go in each:

This file gathers all the information related to a particular employee in one place. You can start it when you hire them, by dropping in their resume and any hiring documents or forms they’ve signed.

Then you can add documents as you go along, such as:

  • training records
  • performance reviews
  • any disciplinary action
  • tax forms
  • payroll details
  • acknowledgement of receiving the employee handbook
  • other contracts or agreements the employee has signed

If an employee has a medical condition or disability that affects their work, you may need to keep medical records, but you should always keep them in a separate file in a very secure location.

That’s because medical information is very personal, and someone who may need to access the employee’s general file should not see their medical records. So keep this information in a separate file, and be very strict about who can access this file and why.

You need to keep proof of a worker’s eligibility to work in the U.S. This form is called Form I-9. Because immigration officials can ask to check these forms, you should keep them separate from the employee’s other information, so that you can just provide them to the government without giving access to all the employee’s personal data.

Another basic HR requirement for every small business is to pay people on time and provide any relevant benefits.

Small businesses often struggle with sufficient cash flow, but if you manage it carefully and make accurate forecasts, you can ensure you always have enough on hand. And if you need to delay any payments, employees’ salaries are not the ones to mess with. Paying someone late tells them that they’re not respected, and/or that the business is in serious trouble. Either way, it’s a sure way to get them updating their resume and looking for a new job.

But beyond that, you also need to make sure you calculate the right amount, make the correct tax deductions, keep and provide the right records, file the right forms with the tax authorities, and so on.

You also need to keep on top of benefits—give employees the right information and make it easy for them to access their benefits, and keep track of, for example, how many vacation days each person has taken out of their overall entitlement. Where benefits are provided by a third party, such as a health insurance company, you need to make sure that everybody is enrolled who should be enrolled, and that everything is running smoothly and people are able to access the help they need.

In this blog, you’ve seen how to comply with some important human resource requirements for your small business. You’ve learned how to keep your employees safe, how to keep on top of employment laws and regulations, how to keep good records, and how to provide pay and benefits efficiently.

AZ HR Hub is your HR partner so you can focus on your business.  Call us today for a free consultation.

What Is an Employee Benefits Broker?

When you hear the word “broker,” what comes to mind? Insurance? Real estate? Brokers are typically people who have access to several options (in whatever their specialty is) and can help you narrow down your choices. Employee benefits brokers are exactly that: people who have access to (and information about) various employee benefit options who can help you narrow down your offerings by providing their input and expertise on the matter.

It’s important to note, however, that not all employee benefits brokers are the same. Some may work for one organization, such as a large health insurance provider, and therefore steer you only through choices from that provider. Others may not be tied to only one provider but may only specialize in one type of benefit. Still others may have a larger base of benefit options to consider but may or may not have as much depth of knowledge across all of the choices. There are a lot of things to consider.

What Can an Employee Benefits Broker Do?

When selecting an employee benefits broker, be sure to know which of these topics (below) are most important to you, and confirm that the broker you select can assist with those specific concerns. Not all brokers will perform every item on the list.

Here are some of the things an employee benefits broker may be able to provide to an employer:

  • Information and assistance in choosing various forms of insurance, including health, life, disability, dental, vision, and more. Note that not all brokers offer the full range of insurance options, but a large majority of benefits brokers specialize in insurance in some capacity.
  • Compliance information, helping the employer to ensure it stays compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and any other regulations that are relevant for the benefits on offer.
  • Advice on how to minimize total costs, such as how to reduce total premiums.
  • Assistance with employee communications related to benefit enrollment.
  • Contract review and negotiation (leverage) with the benefit providers to get a good deal. They may be able to create a customized insurance package for your organization.
  • Assistance in resolving problems. A broker may be able to act as a go-between for the employer to help resolve any problems with claims or administration of the benefits.
  • Analysis of your existing benefits and claims to provide advice on changes and potential cost savings.
  • Advice on changes to benefit packages based on your employee demographics, as well as analysis of previous utilization rates.
  • Direct assistance to employees who have benefit, coverage, or claims questions or need help with claims.
  • Education for employees about their options during open enrollment.

Remember, not all brokers provide all of the above services. It pays to ask in advance which of these items will be provided. The more services a broker provides, the greater he or she assists the organization and the employees. But there are also costs to consider.

Once you know what functions you’d like from an employee benefits broker, that’s not the end of the story. Here are some other considerations:

  • Any broker who is providing insurance will likely have to be licensed to provide this. Consider whether this individual will need licenses across multiple states to help serve your business or whether you may need multiple brokers who are licensed in different geographic areas. If you do, this may be solved by utilizing a firm with expertise across more than one location.
  • While some people may use the terms interchangeably, an employee benefits broker is not necessarily the same thing as an employee benefits consultant. Some would argue that an employee benefits consultant goes beyond what a broker does by providing even more in-depth consulting and decision-making assistance to the employer and the employees. A benefits consultant may be more likely to be able to assist with multiple types of benefits beyond just insurance. Consider which option you need. Note that fee structures may also differ for consultants versus brokers.
  • Brokers may work for or have contracts with specific insurers. The employer should ask what carriers the broker evaluates before making recommendations. It’s not necessarily a problem if the broker works with a specific insurer—it may mean you get greater discounts. But know what you’re getting and what trade-offs you’re making.
  • Brokers have fees, of course. These fees are typically bundled into the coverage provided. Ask about this up front and whether there are any additional fees. Some brokers instead operate on a flat fee based on your specific needs.
California Employment Law Update

The State of California has been very busy with employment law changes.  See below all of the laws that passed in May with various effective dates.

FEHA and National Origin Discrimination

On May 17, 2018, the California Office of Administrative Law approved the California Fair Employment and Housing Council’s new amendments to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act regarding national origin discrimination and employment. The new amendments:

  • Clarify the definitions of national origin and national origin groups.
  • Clarify permissible and prohibited types of employer policies governing English proficiency, accent, and language spoken in the workplace.
  • Clarify permissible and prohibited inquiries regarding immigration status.
  • Detail prohibited forms of harassment in the context of national origin.

The new amendments are effective July 1, 2018.

Read the law

San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Rules

On May 7, 2018, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards published new rules reinterpreting the city’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO) with the following changes:

  • Setting the standard for coverage as applicable to employees working 56 hours in the city and removing a reference to working in the city “on an occasional basis.”
  • Joint employment terms are defined in relation to PSLO applicability.
  • Verification or documentation disclosure protections for employees are modified by requiring no more than is necessary for an employer to determine if the absence is lawful.
  • The notice requirements are modified to require what is presumptively reasonable for pre-scheduled or foreseeable absences.
  • An employee’s regular rate of pay is calculated according to state law (Cal. Labor Code § 510) where previously the calculation was undefined.
  • The basis of an employee’s exempt status is confirmed; however, the rule provides that if an exempt employee was not provided any other paid leave, and sick leave is taken, then his or her salary continues without deduction for the sick time taken, but the leave balance is reduced.
  • The waiting period requirement was modified for employees who are rehired within one year by permitting their original employment period to apply to its fulfillment.
  • Clarifications as to how the PSLO applies to a unionized workforce and collective-bargaining agreements.
  • Modification of remedy calculations and issue resolution timeframes for noncompliant employers.

The new rules are effective June 7, 2018.

Read the rules

Los Angeles Minimum Wage

The City of Los Angeles released its updated local minimum wage poster. Effective July 1, 2018, and under the city’s minimum wage ordinance, Los Angeles employees must be compensated as follows:

  • $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • $13.25 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.

This notice also provides information about the city’s paid sick leave provisions and must be posted in a conspicuous place at any workplace or jobsite. Violators are subject to penalties.

See the poster

San Leandro Minimum Wage

Effective July 1, 2018, the City of San Leandro’s minimum wage increases to $13 per hour. The city released a new poster reflecting this new rate along with the other rate increases that take effect each July 1st through year 2020.

See the poster

Santa Monica Minimum Wage

The City of Santa Monica released its updated local minimum wage poster. Effective July 1, 2018, and under the city’s minimum wage ordinance, every Santa Monica employee (part time or full time) who works at least two hours in a particular work week within the geographic limits of the city must be paid no less than:

  • $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • $13.25 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.

The city’s hotel worker living wage also increased, as listed in the poster, to $16.10 per hour effective July 1, 2018.

See the poster

San Francisco Minimum Wage

On July 1, 2018, the San Francisco minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour. The city released an updated minimum wage poster reflecting the 2018 rate, which must posted by San Francisco employers at each workplace or jobsite.

See the poster

Redwood City Minimum Wage

On April 10, 2018, Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain signed a city minimum wage ordinance (No. 2443) requiring Redwood City employers to pay the following minimum wages:

  • $13.50 per hour effective January 1, 2019.
  • $15 per hour effective January 1, 2020.

Under the ordinance, learner employees must be paid no less than 85 percent of the applicable minimum wage for the first 160 hours of employment and then must be paid the applicable minimum wage. Additionally, employers may not deduct any tip or gratuity (or credit any tip or gratuity) to offset an employee’s wages.

Beginning on January 1, 2021, and each year thereafter, the city’s minimum wage will increase by an amount corresponding to the prior year’s increase in the cost of living, if applicable. The cost of living increase will be measured by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose. The increase will be calculated by using the August-to-August change in CPI; however, a decrease in the CPI will not result in a decrease in the minimum wage.

The ordinance also provides the following:

  • Posting requirements.
  • Retention of payroll records for three years.
  • Retaliation prohibition.
  • Exceptions.
  • Violations, enforcement, and penalties.

The ordinance became effective May 10, 2018.

Read the ordinance

Belmont Minimum Wage

The City of Belmont updated its minimum wage rate official notice to reflect the city’s minimum wage increase to $12.50 (tips not included) per hour for employers who are subject to the Belmont Business License Tax, or who maintain a facility in Belmont, and have an employee who works at least two hours per week in the city.

The rate is effective July 1, 2018.

See the notice

Pasadena Minimum Wage

The City of Pasadena updated its minimum wage rate official notice to reflect the city’s minimum wage increase to $13.25 (in addition to any tips received) per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.

The rate is effective July 1, 2018.

See the notice

Independent Contractors, IWC Wage Order Claims, and the ABC Test

On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court filed its decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court regarding the proper classification of workers under the California Industrial Welfare Commission’s (IWC) wage order claims. As opposed to employees, independent contractors are not covered by IWC wage orders.

In Dynamex, the court held that there is a presumption that a worker is an employee, and covered under the IWC wage orders, unless a business (hiring entity) can establish that all of the following factors of the “ABC test” are applicable:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

If the business can establish that all parts (A, B, and C) of the test are met then the worker is an independent contractor for IWC wage order claim purposes. The court’s ruling in specifically applies to the analysis of the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage orders when evaluating worker status. The court did not address which test is applicable to claims of misclassification under other California statutes, only to claims under the IWC wage orders.

The decision is effective as of April 30, 2018.

Read the decision

Current FMLA Forms Now Expire June 30

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms expire June 30—not on their original expiration date of May 31—but aren’t likely to change when they’re replaced with new forms, experts say.

Employers who customize their own forms aren’t too concerned with the imminent replacement of the current forms, while employment law attorneys disagree on how much the DOL forms might be tweaked.

The FMLA forms are used to certify that an employee is eligible to take FMLA leave and to notify him or her of leave rights under the law. The forms expire under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, which requires the Department of Labor (DOL) to submit its forms at least every three years to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval, so the OMB can ensure processes aren’t too bureaucratic.

The DOL is renewing the current FMLA forms on a month-to-month basis until it replaces them with new forms. But the new forms may be virtually identical to the current ones and have a different expiration date, according to Jeff Nowak, an attorney with Franczek Radelet in Chicago.

In 2015, the DOL made a few minor tweaks to the FMLA forms so they would conform with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

This cycle, the DOL did not request any changes to the forms, Nowak said.

There have not been substantive changes to FMLA or its regulations in the past three years that would require changing any of the information provided or sought on the current forms, noted Tina Bengs, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Indianapolis and Valparaiso, Ind., and Chicago. So it seems likely that the new forms, once issued, will be approved for the maximum three-year period, she predicted.

Customization of Forms

Some employers customize the DOL-recommended forms for their own use, observed Steven Bernstein, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Tampa, Fla. For example, some employers are covered by state and federal FMLAs and adjust the federal forms to reflect state law requirements. Others make minor changes, such as referring to workers as “associates” rather than “employees.”

On occasion, employers incorporate reference to their accrued leave policies, while others adopt robust language disclaiming liability under the FMLA, he said.

He cautioned, however, that an employer can be held liable for using a form that harms the employee by misleading him or her about FMLA rights, and recommended that any changes be reviewed by an outside expert to ensure that added language does not inadvertently conflict with the FMLA.

Monica Velazquez, an attorney with Clark Hill in Collin County, Texas, prefers customized forms so that employers aren’t handing workers documents with the DOL logo. The logo makes the forms look more official than they are, she said, emphasizing that their use is optional.

Copy and paste the information from the DOL form into the employer’s own form, she recommended. If the employer plans to use its own language, use plain English and bullet points, she said. “Keep things as direct as possible.”

“I think the forms should have less space for health care providers to handwrite information,” said Megan Holstein, a senior vice president of absence and disability with Fineos in Denver. For example, instead of an open-ended question about the employee’s treatment schedule, a customized FMLA form might ask the doctor to choose a frequency of treatment—every week, month or year—and circle the response. This would reduce the challenge of reading doctors’ often illegible handwriting, she explained. Less space for handwritten information also would reduce the chances of doctors’ filling certification forms with confusing medical lingo, she added.

Many employers put the information about health conditions at the top of the medical certification forms, as it’s the first piece of information the employer wants—what ails the employee or family member—so the employer has a better sense of whether the employee is covered by the FMLA, Nowak noted. Nevertheless, he said he doesn’t have many concerns with the FMLA forms and encourages clients to use them.

FMLA Forms

The current DOL forms are:

ICE Planning Surge of I-9 Audits This Summer

Derek Benner, acting executive associate director for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told The Associated Press that in addition to the plans for this summer, the agency will continue to focus on criminal cases against employers and deporting employees who are in the country illegally.

ICE has already opened more worksite investigations seven months into fiscal year (FY) 2018 than the agency completed in all of FY 2017. The federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Enforcement investigations in FY 2018 have doubled last year’s total, and arrests related to worksite enforcement have nearly quadrupled.

Since October 2017, HSI has opened 3,510 worksite investigations, initiated 2,282 I-9 audits, and made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests. That’s up from 1,716 investigations, 1,360 I-9 audits, 139 criminal arrests and 172 administrative arrests the previous fiscal year.

If anyone was wondering if the Trump administration was more bark than bite, these numbers indicate a significant increase in enforcement action, noted Muzaffar Chishti, an attorney and director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at New York University School of Law. “What is not clear is whether any employers are included in the arrests,” he said. “Arrests—both criminal and civil—are almost always workers. For example, no one from management was charged in the high-profile Tennessee raid in April. That seems to be an imbalance.”

The ICE Toolkit

ICE said it uses a three-pronged approach to worksite enforcement:

  • Compliance, via Form I-9 audits, civil fines and debarment from federal contracts.
  • Enforcement, through the criminal arrests of employers and administrative arrests of unauthorized workers.
  • Outreach, by participating in the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program, in which ICE certifies organizations for complying with the law. As part of the program, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system.

Chishti believes pushing employers to enroll in E-Verify may be the aim of ICE’s more aggressive enforcement actions. “That strategy may work, but it only works for people who are on payroll,” he said.

E-Verify doesn’t enforce compliance for people paid as independent contractors, outsourced workers or those paid off the books, he said, adding that there’s a tendency for employers to explore these alternative hiring methods in response to increased enforcement.

Be Prepared for a New Normal.

Soon, ICE intends to conduct up to 15,000 Form I-9 audits per year, to be completed by electronically scanning documents in a not-yet-created national inspection center, Benner said.

“Investigations most often start with a notice of inspection alerting employers that ICE is going to audit their employment records for compliance with existing law,” said Michael H. Neifach, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., region office of Jackson Lewis. Enforcement actions can begin from a law enforcement tip or from an investigation into another type of violation, such as labor standards violations, and could result in civil penalties and/or criminal charges for employers.

ICE recently changed the way it calculates civil penalties to increase the fines imposed for I-9 violations. In FY 2017, employers were ordered to pay $97.6 million in judicial forfeitures, fines and restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines.

“Unauthorized employees who are not legally in the U.S. may be detained and, ultimately, deported,” Neifach said. “Given the government’s focus on worksite inspections, preparing for possible inspections by auditing your employment verification processes and records is an essential precaution.”

Your HR Partner

Contact Us

Social

Newsletter

Enter your email address here always to be updated. We promise not to spam!