By Betsey Nash, SPHR, SHRM-SCP ~
In at least two ways, I am different than most of you.
First, I am not afraid of public speaking. In fact I love it. It has been said of me that I never met a microphone I didn’t like.
Secondly, I like filling out paperwork. Even though conventional wisdom holds that more people fear public speaking than fear cancer, I expect that No. 2 on my list is more of a shock than No. 1.
“Why would anyone actually like filling out forms?” I hear you cry. I like to print. When I dated an architecture student at Cal Poly, I think his printing was the thing about him I admired most, so I tried to copy it. As a result, I like to print.
When I got really good at completing I-9 Forms for new hires, I was the human resources manager at Home Depot in Thousand Oaks, where we had 350 employees. This was back in the dark ages before forms were available online with sections you could type in the info.
Undaunted, however, I filled in the part that was always the same: the certification section, where the name and address of the Depot and my name and title would not change. Then I made copies of the forms, so I wouldn’t have to do that part again.
And I copied the “List of Acceptable Documents” onto the back of the forms so that I wouldn’t have so much paper to deal with.
The new employee completes Section 1, although you’d be wise to review it before you let them leave the room. The commonly missed parts are the boxes where they check whether they are a citizen or resident alien, and they often forget to sign and date the form.
Even the most detail-oriented employees miss parts of the I-9. Completing Section 2 is your job, or that of your hiring manager, and it is critical to get it right. This is the part where you enter the information from the documents that authorize the employee to work in the United States and/or confirm their identity. The most recent incarnation of the I-9 Form has made it very clear what info goes where, fixing shortcomings I’ve griped about for years.
So read the instructions in the grey box and put the info where the form says to put it. But train your managers because you cannot count on them to read the instructions and be as motivated toward accuracy as you are. And you’re the one who’ll have to defend them.
Tips on compliance: The rule used to be that you could not abbreviate, but now most auditors say it is OK unless there is a chance the abbreviation could be confused with another word.
A colleague of mine was dinged for abbreviating CA Driver License as “CDL” because it could have been Colorado Driver License. Did you notice I didn’t call it a Driver’s License? It actually says DRIVER on the license, and when you have to fill out 350 of these things every “S” counts.
For Social Security cards, “Soc. Sec. Card” is OK, as is “Dept.,” but be sure to write down exactly which department issued the card. It could be the Social Security Administration, but it might also be Health and Human Services and entering the wrong one is a red flag that you never really looked at it.
The I-9s should be kept in a separate file — not in personnel files. You are not required to be an expert in forgery, or to keep the original documents, but since you are the one signing the certification section, make sure you do look at the docs; feel for the raised columns on the Social Security Card and raised sections on driver licenses.
And remember, the new driver licenses issued to otherwise undocumented immigrants are not valid for use on I-9s.
Over the past decade or so, enforcement of I-9 collection and accuracy has been a priority, since the government can make a lot of money collecting fines from those who mess up.
It used to be that only the worst offenders (often labor brokers who brokered undocumented workers to the cheating employers who were happy to hire them) were audited and fined, even jailed. But we are all subject to audits these days and must present accurate forms to auditors.
We may not have to print as much as in the old days, but what we print had better be accurate.
Betsey Nash, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, has been a human resources practitioner for over 25 years. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Only Human is a regular feature of the Tolosa Press.