The fines imposed on employers in California and around the country found to be in violation of federal immigration laws increased sharply on Aug. 1. The previous fine schedule will remain in place for violations that occurred prior to Nov. 2, 2015. The Department of Justice penalties apply to offenses such as hiring undocumented workers, unlawful employment practices and paperwork violations.
The maximum DOJ fine for hiring an unauthorized worker increased from $3,200 to $4,313 for first offenders, and employers with a track record of violations could be ordered to pay as much as $21,563 for each undocumented employee. Businesses with sloppy recordkeeping practices will also be paying more. The maximum I-9 paperwork fine increased by 96 percent from $1,100 to $2,156.
Employers straying from federally-mandated documentation requirements will now be paying between $178 and $1,782 for each violation instead of the $110 to $1,100 that they would have owed under the old fine schedule. Companies with employment practices that violate immigration laws also face increased penalties, and they could be fined up to $3,563 for each violation if they have a record of noncompliance.
Under the new DOJ fine structure, employers with large work forces could face thousands of dollars in fines simply for failing to keep accurate records even when they have not hired unauthorized workers. Attorneys with immigration law experience may be able to limit this exposure by reviewing the I-9 compliance practices of their clients and suggesting revisions when regulatory issues are discovered. Experienced immigration attorneys may also suggest changes to company policy manuals, hiring practices and training procedures to bring them into line with federal immigration laws. When employers need skilled workers that cannot be found in the United States, attorneys may explain the steps involved in obtaining one of the employment-based visas that may be available.