Fifth Circuit Overturns $226,000 Fine Imposed on a Staffing Company for Completing Section 2 of Form I-9 Remotely

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes the position that employers must physically review original documents in the actual presence of a new hire when completing the attestation in Section 2 of the Form I-9 (the attestation is a statement from the employer indicating the employer reviewed the new hire’s documents and the documents belong to the new hire). In other words, DHS prohibits employers from reviewing copies of documents remotely or via video when completing a Form I-9. In a decision published on August 11, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that a Minnesota staffing company was not liable for a $226,000 fine it received when it completed Section 2 in Minnesota after reviewing copies of the Form I-9 documents presented by new hires located in El Paso, Texas.

While the Fifth Circuit’s holding contradicted ICE’s position on Section 2 requirements, the holding focused solely on the notice due to employers when administrative agencies assess penalties for violations of ambiguous laws. The court even notes at the conclusion of the opinion that DHS has discretion to require employers to follow certain procedures for completing Section 2 within the confines of the INA. In fact, since 2013, DHS has done so, and noted in its guidance that the Section 2 attestation must be completed by an individual who reviews original documents within the physical presence of an employee.

Clients with questions regarding Form I-9 practices should consult your HR Ideas representative.

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