With increased scrutiny of aliens in the United States – and the growing number of alien workers in the pork industry – it's critical that you comply with immigration laws.

"Non-compliance can result in regulatory fines, legal problems and losing workers," says attorney Dave Whitlock of Fisher & Phillips LLP, Atlanta, Ga. "Properly filling out I-9 forms, and ensuring that you do not discriminate against alien workers in the hiring process are two keys to avoiding trouble with immigration laws."

Whitlock and several other attorneys from the Fisher & Phillips employment law firm assisted Gempler's in publishing a new, 134-page guide entitled "Labor Law Compliance: A Working Guide for Ag/Hort
Employers." The guide includes Spanish and English checklists and compliance guidance on such issues as immigration law, Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and harassment/discrimination issues.

The following information is reprinted with permission from the new copyrighted guide:

I-9 compliance
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires you to complete I-9 forms for all employees hired since Nov. 6, 1986 – not just for foreign-born workers. Employees must complete Section 1 of the form before they start work. You have until the end of the third business day to complete Section 2, but Whitlock recommends completing the entire form before the person starts work. If the person is hired to work for three days or less, the entire form must be completed before work commences.

If an employee cannot read or write English, a translator or other person (including you) may complete Section 1 of the form on the employee's behalf. The completed form must be properly signed and dated by you or your representative, the employee and the preparer/translator if one is involved.

Whitlock recommends that you keep I-9 forms in a file separate from your employees' personnel files. You should keep these records for three years from the date the employee starts work and for one year after the date ending the person's employment.

On the back of the I-9 form, there are three lists of acceptable identity and/or employment eligibility documents a worker may present. It's critical that you let the employee choose which documents to present.

Document abuse
"Document abuse" is an area where agricultural employers get into trouble with federal immigration law. This may occur when an employer:

  • Specifies which documents an employee must present to establish identity or eligibility to work in the United States;
  • Requires more or different documents than the minimum needed to complete the I-9 form;
  • Refuses a document that reasonably appears to be genuine.

Remember, says Whitlock, it is up to the employee to decide which documents to produce in conjunction with the I-9 process. The law does not require you to be an expert at detecting fraudulent documents. It does require you to accept those I-9 documents that an employee produces (which appear to be reasonably genuine.)

Barbara Mulhern, editor of Gempler's "Labor Law Compliance: A Working Guide for Ag/Hort Employers."

For More Information
The guidebook mentioned in this article, "Labor Law Compliance: A Working Guide for Ag/Hort Employers," is available for $39.55 per copy. To order call Gempler's at (800) 382-8473. The book (order #10481) also is available online. For more information, go to www.gemplersalert.com