Staffing Company Escapes Potential $1.4 Million Form I-9 Penalty

Employers of all sizes may hire hundreds or thousands of employees every year, each of whom must properly complete a Form I-9 on time, as required by law. Organizations want to avoid the potentially crippling fines and penalties if a violation is discovered by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) auditors. Although complex to determine, “successor liability” can occur based upon the relationship of two companies, a violation for which ICE will seek to hold all parties accountable. One staffing company recently managed to escape such liability for a whopping $1.4 million fine for alleged I-9 violations. In U.S. v. Spectrum Technical Staffing Services and Personnel Plus, Inc., 12 OCAHO no. 1291 (Nov. 2016), a four-count complaint filed by ICE alleged Spectrum should be held liable for violations relating to the employment of unauthorized workers, as well as Form I-9 verification failures. ICE later amended the complaint to include a newly formed staffing company, Personnel Plus, Inc., that they felt was suspiciously created after the Notice of Inspection was served. After further investigation, the courts determined that ICE had failed to show any exceptions to the general rule that asset purchases are not liable as successors, nor could they provide evidence that any transfer had taken place. But that won’t stop ICE from examining future cases and trying again.

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