This summer saw federal authorities raid more than a dozen 7-Eleven stores in New York and Virginia, arresting the owners and managers for hiring illegal immigrants and giving them false identities, paying them for only a few of the countless hours they worked and housing them in buildings they owned or rented. The franchise owners and managers charged were accused of stealing Social Security numbers from children and the deceased. The arrests may only be the beginning, as the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating about 40 other 7-Eleven franchises. The national 7-Eleven company was criticized for not having safeguards to protect against immigration and payroll fraud by their over 7,600 franchisees, which allowed the schemes to go undetected for more than a decade.
Verifying Form I-9 employment authorization
It is not only illegal to hire an undocumented worker, but all employers must verify that all new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States. This is accomplished by use of Form I-9, which has been updated this past March. Proper completion of Form I-9 includes:
- The prospective employees own attestation of authorization for employment in the U.S.
- The employee must present both acceptable identification and work authorization documents such as a passport, EAD work authorization card, driver’s license and social security card
- The employer must examine and determine the documents validity, applicability and authenticity
Enforcement and accountability
Federal authorities can and do audit businesses’ I-9 compliance and impose heavy fines for non-compliance. It is important for every employer to conduct self-audits to ensure compliance and have a program in place to monitor and oversee their payroll system. It is especially crucial for any company with affiliates or franchises to audit and cross-check the payroll and employee records in all their branch and franchisee locations.
Businesses and workers alike should be sure to seek advice from an Orlando immigration law office with experience handling matters involving I-9 compliance and work visas. It is important for both employers and employees to have knowledge on their side.