Compliance-minded companies always want to know, “What’s the risk of non-compliance?” Or, put another way, “How much will it hurt if we don’t get it right?” For those companies still wondering whether spending a little now to implement a solid immigration compliance program is a sound investment, some of the recent immigration-related penalties provide compelling reasons to invest in training and compliance. Remember − all employers have immigration-related compliance obligations regardless of whether they employ any foreign nationals. Some of the companies suffering significant penalties never even had any unauthorized workers in their workforce, but merely fell short on their obligation to verify employment eligibility (the Form I-9 process) or discriminated against certain individuals during the Form I-9 process. Penalties imposed in any given case are always fact-dependent, and the employer’s response to the investigation can significantly impact the outcome of any investigation. Taking a look at the recent penalties imposed provides a good perspective of the risk. For example, after a Form I-9 inspection in 2009, American Apparel lost 40% of its workforce and suffered significant financial losses that it attributed to lost productivity, causing its stock to drop 41% after reporting losses in the second quarter of 2010.

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