A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit illustrates the potential cost to employers of failing to comply with the Form I-9 requirements of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  With the Trump Administration making immigration enforcement a priority, the case serves as a timely reminder of the need for employers to make sure their immigration compliance practices are in order.

In Split Rail Fence Company v. United States, No. 15-9561 (10th Cir. Dec. 20, 2016), the appeals court found that the company violated IRCA by:  (1) knowingly continuing to employ aliens who were unauthorized to work in the United States; and (2) failing to reverify an individual whose work authorization had expired.  In so ruling, the court upheld a fine of $29,460 assessed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and upheld by a Department of Homeland Security administrative law judge (ALJ).

The case stems from a 2009 ICE audit of the company’s I-9 forms which revealed that a number of Split Rail employees were not authorized to work in the United States.  ICE subsequently instructed the company to request acceptable documentation from the employees, and if they failed to provide proper documentation, to consider them unauthorized to work and terminate them.  ICE then conducted a follow-up audit in 2011 finding that Split Rail had continued to employ individuals identified in the 2009 audit without obtaining acceptable documentation, and assessed a fine.

A copy of the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Split Rail is available here.

Members of the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC) can read more here.