In today's economy, we know our clothing is made all over the world and hope that labor laws are being followed. What we don't expect is for those laws in the US to be violated.

It's more important than ever for employers to meet the terms of federal immigration and labor laws. As part of a new high-profile strategy, the US Dep't. of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focusing a crackdown on employers who illegally hire undocumented workers.

American Apparel Loses Workers

Casual clothing maker American Apparel is terminating about 1,500 employees identified as immigrant workers through a government audit. The company operates the largest garment factory in the US. Unlike other manufacturers that send production overseas, the company's design, cutting, sewing and knitting work is all done at Los Angeles area facilities. A large portion of its workforce is Hispanic.

The ICE notified the company in July that about a third of its factory workers might be in the country illegally. Workers were given 60 to 90 days to come up with further documents to show their work eligibility. If not, the company faced fines of up to $800 per undocumented worker. CEO Dov Charney promised to give departing employees priority in future hiring when they were able to get their immigration papers in order.

Form I-9 Verification

American Apparel was one of 652 businesses targeted by ICE investigations this year.

Federal law compels employers, large and small to make sure that employees are able to work in the United States. All new workers must complete a government verification form, Form I-9, and show certain identity and employment eligibility documents to meet the guidelines.

Employers must determine whether the documents reasonably appear to be authentic. Employers must keep the I-9 forms the length of the worker's employment, plus one year, or three years from the hiring date, whichever is longer.

Employer Penalties

Substantial penalties can be put on employers for failing to comply with immigration hiring laws and regulations. The possible penalties for various offenses are:

  • Failure to complete and retain I-9 Forms: fines of $110 to $1,100 for each violation
  • Knowingly hiring unauthorized workers:
    • First offense: fines of $375 to $3,200 for each unauthorized worker
    • Second offense: $3,200 to $6,500 for each unauthorized worker
    • Subsequent offenses: $4,300 to $16,000 for each unauthorized worker
  • Continuing to hire or employ unauthorized workers: fines of up to $3,000 per employee and/or 6 months imprisonment
  • Knowingly using fake documents:
    • First offense: $375 to $3,200 for each fraudulent document
    • Later offenses: $3,200 to $6,500 for each fraudulent document

Don't risk fines or penalties for failing to properly document the employment eligibility of your employees. To learn more about the Form I-9 verification process, check out these articles: Immigration Laws for Employers and E-Verify and Your Job.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What should I do if the I-9 Forms are lost?
  • I know that I need to keep copies of the Form I-9. Should I also keep copies of the identity and eligibility documents that are produced by employees?
  • What should I do if the ICE wants to inspect my hiring documents?

Tagged as: Immigration, american apparel, immigrant hiring