The recent settlement between the Department of Justice and Hooters serves as a cautionary tale for businesses everywhere about the importance of proper I-9 compliance. Destin Wings LLC, a Florida-based establishment operating under the name Hooters of Destin, was found to have violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against a non-U.S. citizen during the process of verifying her eligibility to work in the United States.
The popular restaurant chain found itself in hot water after an employee filed a complaint that the staff refused to accept her valid documentation and asked for additional documentation. The anti-discrimination provision of the INA prohibits employers from asking for specific documents — or more documents than necessary — based on a worker’s citizenship, immigration status, or national origin. The Hooters case showcases the risk associated with not investing the necessary time and resources into I-9 compliance. These risks can be mitigated by investing in a compliant I-9 system that guides new hires on how to properly fill out an I-9, what documentation is necessary and offers training for the staff members responsible for overseeing the collection of I-9 forms.
The I-9 process can be complicated, and it is essential that businesses have a solid understanding of the requirements in order to avoid costly mistakes. The I-9 form is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired in the United States. Employers must complete the form within three days of a new employee's start date, and they must retain the form for a specified period of time. Failure to comply with the requirements can result in significant fines and penalties.
The Hooters settlement should serve as a wake-up call for businesses of all sizes. I-9 compliance is not an area where shortcuts can be taken. It is essential to invest in proper training for staff responsible for completing the forms, and a compliant I-9 software system in place for retaining and maintaining the forms. Failure to do so can result in costly fines and penalties, as well as damage to a company's reputation. Businesses should take the Hooters case as a cautionary tale and take steps to ensure that their own I-9 processes are in compliance with federal law.