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Penalties for hiring people not authorized to work in the U.S. and discriminating against immigrant workers will be increased to keep up with inflation, according to an announcement June 30 by the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Labor.
The announcement related to final rules that apply to civil penalties assessed after Aug. 1, 2016, for violations that occurred after Nov. 2, 2015. The penalties cover violations of the H-1B, H-2A and H-2B temporary visa foreign worker programs; the unlawful employment of immigrant workers; violations related to I-9 forms; and immigration-related discriminatory employment practices.
"This is very significant," said Mitch Wexler, an immigration attorney and a partner at Fragomen Worldwide, based in Los Angeles. "The fines in some categories have almost doubled. One reason is due to inflation and another is an indication of the government's efforts to vigorously enforce our immigration laws."
The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act, signed into law in November 2015, requires an initial catch-up adjustment followed by annual adjustments of the civil penalty amounts.
The minimum penalty imposed by the Justice Department for the unlawful employment of immigrant workers will rise from $375 to $539, while the maximum fine will go from $3,200 to $4,313. Violators facing multiple charges will be subject to a new maximum penalty of $21,563.
The most significant increase is for mistakes or omissions on the Form I-9, said Wexler, who noted that "fines in this category go up 96 percent." The new rules raise paperwork violations related to I-9 verification from a maximum of $1,100 to $2,156. The minimum penalty per violation increases from $110 to $216.
"It is more important now than ever for companies big and small to make sure they have effective policies and procedures in place for properly 'I-9ing' employees during the onboarding process," Wexler said. "This includes a regular review of existing I-9s and training staff that touch this critical function."
An initial violation for discriminating against immigrant workers can bring a new top penalty of $3,563 per charge, up from $3,200. The minimum penalty increases from $375 to $445.
Civil penalties related to the H-1B, H-2B and H-2A temporary visa foreign worker programs will be raised depending on the violation and include the following:
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