Winery and Vineyard Procedures for Hiring Seasonal Workers; Avoiding Problems in I-9 Audits by Immigration Services

Due to the necessities of hiring seasonal workers, many vineyards and wineries are faced with the task of verifying employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S. by maintaining Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification forms. Over the past year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased its audits of employers’ I-9 files.  The USCIS has also been bringing criminal cases against employers for violating the I-9 requirements.  What this means to employers is that sloppy paperwork and poor documentation can cost you $1,000 per worker, and knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant can result in a $10,000-per-worker fine.
Here are some steps to help you avoid potential legal trouble with the USCIS:
  1. Take stock of your I-9 compliance and make sure you’re using the new version of the I-9 form; 
  2. Do not ask an applicant to complete an I-9 prior to making a job offer (unhired applicants can use I-9 information to allege that you are discriminating against them);
  3. Require all new hires to complete and sign Section 1 of the I-9 form on their first day of work;
  4. Review the employee-offered documents to make sure they are on the new version of the I-9’s list of acceptable documents and that they appear genuine (you are looking for obvious fakes, you are not required to go out of your way to question the authenticity of an employee’s offered documents which appear genuine);
  5. Do not ask new hires for any particular documents or for more documents than the I-9 requires; the employee chooses the documents, not you;
  6. Do not consider the expiration date of I-9 documentation when making hiring or firing decisions;
  7. Do calendar when documents that authorize an employee to work in the U.S. expire so that you may follow up (remember you do not need to re-verify identity documents such as a driver’s license or a passport);
  8. Do not keep the I-9 documents in the personnel file (to protect against discrimination claims keep the I-9 and supporting documentation in a separate file);
  9. Keep I-9 forms and copies of supporting documents for three years after the employee’s hire date or one year after his or her termination date, whichever comes later; and most importantly,
  10. Establish a consistent procedure for completing the I-9 forms and train your hiring managers on the procedure.
You can find more detailed information about I-9 documentation and procedures on the USCIS website at this Link to I-9 info

For specific questions about your businesses compliance you can contact Jen Phillips at [email protected]
Copyright Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty at www.lexvini.com