What with all the new developments regarding the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form, your clients might ask if they could see the I-9s you have on file for the associates you have working with their company. And while your instinct is surely to make the client happy, this is one time you really want to tell them “no.”
Why? The short answer is: because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says so, and you probably don’t want to get on their bad side. The longer answer involves educating your clients about co-employment.
Legally, clients are deemed “co-employers” with staffing firms for several aspects of the employment relationship – generally based on their sharing control of the supervisory employment relationship and the work environment. However, that shared control doesn’t apply to meeting federal regulations for hiring, one of which is employment eligibility, the territory of the I-9.
This is actually a benefit for your clients: your company bears the responsibility of making sure the associate is legally authorized to work in the United States. But it’s a risk for you, because it means you would bear any fines and penalties for incorrect or fraudulent I-9 forms.
We recommend that every staffing firm use E-Verify for all their hires. (Depending on your state, you might be required to use it.) E-Verify’s high rate of accuracy means you can essentially guarantee that every associate you send to work is eligible to work in the U.S. However, the DHS specifies that E-Verify information can only be used or even viewed by individuals who are authorized to check employment eligibility, and it forbids sharing E-Verify information with third parties – i.e., your clients.
Your clients likely conduct internal I-9 audits every year, as recommended, and they’d probably like those audits to include associates from your firm. One way to satisfy their desire for I-9 compliance information is to conduct your own I-9 audits on your associates once a year, if not more frequently. Then you can provide your clients with a copy of their current associate placement list and your audit findings.
You want to keep your clients happy, of course, but we bet you’d like to keep the Department of Homeland Security happy even more.
We’d like to thank our friends and partners in the New Jersey Staffing Alliance for their recent newsletter article on this issue, which inspired this post.