How should I navigate the I-9 process for remote hires?
Employers must verify the employment eligibility of all workers through examination of selected document(s) from the employee and completion of Form I-9. This is a simple process when the employee appears personally with the physical document(s) required, allowing the employer to determine if they reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the employee presenting them. But what happens with a remote hire?
In the increasing realm of telecommuting and remote work sites, new hires may not be willing or able to travel to a business’s home office to present their document(s) in person to the hiring manager to complete the I-9 process. If the employer cannot examine the documents in person, it must designate an authorized representative to meet with the new hire, verify the document(s) presented and complete the I-9 on the employer’s behalf; an employer cannot rely on a photocopy or webcam to examine documents. The authorized representative can be anyone designated by the employer who is willing to examine the required documents and complete and sign form I-9. The authorized representative is not required to have any specific agreement with the employer; however, the employer is liable for any violations committed by the authorized representative in connection with the I-9 completion and verification process.
It is critical for the authorized representative to understand that the employee selects whichever document(s) he or she wants from either List A (one document) or Lists B and C (one document from each) to establish identity and work authorization. Neither the employer nor authorized representative may dictate which document(s) the employee must provide or require any additional documentation beyond the requirements listed on form I-9. Requesting specific or additional documents constitutes “document abuse” and subjects the employer to penalties. The employer must also carefully ensure that all workers are treated equally throughout this process to avoid potential claims of discrimination.
Penalties for noncompliance with I-9 requirements range from first offense fines of $100 per violation up to $1,100 per form for failure to comply with I-9 requirements or committing document abuse. Penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers can be significantly higher.
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