Using the wrong I-9 form? Uh, Oh! Well several people made this mistake. Correct the errors now before ICE does it for you. In this episode I will discuss the How To’s of facing this and other I-9 challenges.
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EPISODE 5: AM I USING THE WRONG I-9 FORM?
Small Business Spoonfuls is a twice a week Q&A with Lisa Smith, providing the answers to questions you have about running your small business. Hey, y all, this is Lisa Smith again, coming to you from Atlanta, Ga. Welcome back to Episode No. 5 of Small Business Spoonfuls. Today s spoonful is coming at you from a question I received regarding the I-9.
Alright, you know if you are an employer and even if you only have one employee, you still have to have an I-9 for that employee. The question that came to me is I have I-9s with expiration dates of June 2013. I have others with various expiration dates. What was that form all about? Apparently the person who asked this question figured out what had actually happened was the I-9 expired and we were supposed to get a new I-9 and it took them like a couple, 3, 4 extra years to get us this new I-9, right? In the meantime, I had folks asking me this question saying I found the new I-9 that they are supposed to be coming out with and it has an expiration date of June 2013.
I would say, no that is not the proper I-9 and they would say well, yeah, that s the new one, but it wasn t. Here is the answer to that question. If you have any I-9s on file that have the date in the bottom corner, June 2013, that was actually the I-9 for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands and it is not approved for the 50 United States and Washington, DC. It is not approved. It was a common error. A lot of people made it as I mentioned. They found it out there and thought oh, I found the new I-9. I know of a couple of universities who published this on their website and because they had students who were coming in from the Marianna Islands and other folks went out there and said, oh, this is what the university uses so I guess it s the right one. They were not paying attention to the small print.
It was perfect timing because we were looking for a new I-9 and when people saw that one it just seemed to be the right thing. What happened was I had all these folks say it. If this was not the correct I-9 and in the top of the I-9, top of the right corner as you are looking at it you will see it says Northern Marianna Islands or NMI or something like that. You will very clearly be able to see where it references the Northern Marianna Islands. They were asking me, do I have to totally redo the I-9 because it basically looked identical to the I-9 that we were using for the United States at that time. If it is the same information, do I really have to go redo another I-9 or will this work if I m ever audited. I felt like I knew the answer to this already, a big no. You would not be able to use that one, but I went ahead and made sure because there was nothing in writing about it.
I called Homeland Securities Hotline, because they do have a hotline for folks who are using the I-9 and have questions about it. I spoke with the Customer Service there and I was instructed to tell anyone that asked me that question, the correct I-9 must be on file. The employee must be asked to come back in and the I-9 process must be completed from top to bottom on the correct form. Then what you would do is take your old form and your new form and staple them together with the new I-9 on top and then make a memo that says, today we undertook an audit of our I-9s and found we were using the incorrect I-9 for this employee, this is our effort to correct, we were not re-verifying, we were just making the correction on the correct I-9 form. Staple all that together and both the employee and the rep for your company, HR, whoever helped fill out the I-9, both of you sign it and then you are good to go.
You don t want to back date the new form. You don t want to say the hire date is June 1st and the I-9 signature date is June 4th, because you know you only have 3 days to complete it. You don t want to do any backdating. This could be a few years discrepancy here and that s okay, as long as you have written the memo explaining your activities, put it all together, Homeland Security says most likely you won t have any penalty for that. There you go. That was kind of a weird, tricky question. It does not apply to everyone. Only when you are auditing your I-9s will you come up and see the expiration date says June of 2013 and those are the ones you have to pull out and get those redone. That could open up a whole can of worms once you start to audit your I-9s because you may find a ton of things that are wrong.
You will want to go through and you will want to create an internal audit checklist for your I-9 just like you do with all the other things that you audit in your organization, so create this checklist. The one I created for our Help Desk for Payroll Professionals, which is found at beauditsecure.com, the one I created for that particular function is 4 pages long. You may come up with one that is very similar to that but be comprehensive about it. Make sure if it s you that s doing the auditing, make sure you really know what you re doing, you have something to guide you through it, not that you don t know what you re doing, but you have something that will guide you through it. Then if you are training someone that is going to help you maybe get the audits done, maybe you have 300 of these to do, right, maybe you will want to have someone help you and not do it all by yourself, then a checklist is very helpful in helping that other person know exactly what you are looking for and what to do. Make sure that is clear.
I also tell people to have a standard operating procedure in writing for the I-9s, because those SOPs are very important for your worker to know step by step what you expect them to do with this particular process. You are onboarding a new employee, you got the W4, you got maybe benefit paperwork and they are looking at the Handbook and are signing off on that. You ve got an I-9. There is definitely a lot going on here and you want to be sure the one handling the onboarding for you understands what has to be done with that I-9. Very, very important.
For those of you who do have Help Desk for Payroll Professionals, you already have seen that we have a whole I-9 compliance section in there. Lots of great information. If you are kind of out there winging it on your own, make sure that you know that the current I-9 that we are using was issued in March 2013 and it expires March 2016. That is the expiration date we are looking for and then if you have folks who came to work for you before March 2013, you are going to have old I-9s on file and that is okay as long as you had the correct I-9 at the time they were hired, that is all you have to worry about. Look out for the ones that have the June 2013 expiration and get those redone, but currently, right now, you are using the I-9s that are dated to expire March of 2016. Keep that going and move forward.
We will be doing future podcasts and courses and all kinds of great stuff on the I-9 process because this literally could be a 6 hour seminar that we do. I have to speed through it when I do a public class with several other topics involved, say for instance on HR or Payroll Processing, but I always get so many questions on the I-9. I know this is something you guys are struggling with and some of you don t even know you are struggling with it until we talk about it, and you go, oh, I m doing that wrong. Sometimes, I would hazard to say, much of the time, I hear I have recently been put into this position and the person before me was doing it wrong, so how do I go in and do it right? That s a very common question. Ask yourself, are you the person who is fixing the old problems or are you the person that they are going to come to me complaining about that you did it wrong. I m hoping you are not going to be that person, but somebody was that person. Hopefully, it won t be you. Get the help you need, get it taken care of and you will be on the right track to being audit secure in your business.
Okay, this brings us to our next section, HR Superstar. Great. This is exciting. I love this part because as you know, if you listen a lot I am kind of movie and TV junkie. Since I also love talking about employment law and HR and all kinds of business related stuff, every time I watch a show, I m looking for things that they are doing wrong with HR or employment management. Here is one. I have given you some good examples recently, but let me give you a really, really, really horrible HR example. In the taped TV series all the time you see people who are at work and it is a favorite thing especially for a sitcom to do to have the managers and employees throw potshots back and forth to each other. Sometimes it crosses over into territory that would really, really be a big no no if you tried this back at the office. We want to make sure when you are watching these shows, you understand what the line is.
We always say people are always your friend and family and so forth, until they are not. When they are not, they are not and they bring their lawyer. The TV show that we are profiling today is one that I like actually, but when it comes to this one section, they are doing it wrong. It is Cristela. Have you seen Cristela? It comes on I believe Friday nights. I think they are on hiatus, they may have even ended the series, it may not be renewed for next fall. It has been funny. It is based on the comedy of Cristela, I forget her last name now. She is awesome and she is hysterical. It is about a woman, she is Latina. She has gone to school for years and years and she is finally doing her internship with a law firm in San Antonio, TX then she is going to hopefully pass the bar and move on to being an attorney and live happily ever after.
While she is working for this, doing this internship at this law firm, the law firm is owned by an older maybe sixtyish, somethingish Caucasian gentleman. He has a tall, skinny, blonde daughter who works for him as well. She is also in law school and getting ready to take the bar. There is another gentleman who works there as an intern and he is a Jewish man. You have sort of these 3 dynamics going on in the workplace. As you can imagine by what I m putting out in front of you right now is the end of it all is the old Caucasian employer makes constant rude comments about Latinas, about Jewish people and about Catholics and about various issues related to race, ethnic origin, religion, even things like he said in one episode, hey, Cristela, except he doesn t say it right, Hey, Cristela, you re Mexican, right? You probably know some good carpet layers. How awful is that? She s like oh my goodness. She calls him out on his racism all the time but it doesn t do any good, because he s just going to keep being racist. It s almost like, please listen to this entire sentence, it s almost like he s racist with a heart of gold because he would never have silver.
I m saying that very jokingly as far as the heart of gold part. That is kind of the way they portray it on the sitcom. There are very few things that get on my nerves, which there are a lot of things that get on my nerves, but racism is one of the biggest things that get on my nerves. I just hate it with a passion and you hear it all the time. It is especially predominant these days among folks who are perceived to maybe be from a part of the world the United States is not friendly with so you just pick a country and if we are not friendly with them here in the United States, they are pretty much fair game to make fun of on TV, that s not fair either. We don t want to bring that into our workplace. I m not saying Mexico is someone we are not friendly with, we are very friendly with Mexico as far as I know. It just happens that she s getting picked on and it s her show and so forth and she s allowing it to happen. It is supposed to be all in fun. Some folks who really believe that way and take those racial profiling, stereotypical things and turn them into comments in the workplace, that is very dangerous. If you are a manager, supervisor, business owner, whatever your title is in your organization, then you absolutely have to have a zero tolerance policy for that kind of behavior and you yourself, have to watch out and not demonstrate any of those behaviors if you have tendencies. I m not just talking to Caucasians right now, because racism shows up in all races towards all sorts of people even within your own race, you can be having this racial tug of war even in your own race. Whatever the hang up is, we have to just shake it off and leave it at home and work on it, of course, but don t bring it into the work place.
There you go, my thumbs down for poor HR demonstration is the Cristela show even though I love Cristela. That is it for today. Thanks for tuning in. I will see you guys in Episode 6. Until then, be audit secure. I am Lisa Smith and I am out.
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