Thursday, April 20, 2006

First Strike: Feds Seize both Management and Workers in Enforcement Raid

In what may be the first of many raids to come, Federal ICE officials rounded up over 1000 illegal immigrants from a number of IFCO System locations. IFCO Systems, the nations leading manufacturer of wooden pallets and crates, has offices in several states. During the raid Wednesday, Federal authorities hit company locations in Houston, Cincinnati, Phoenix, and Albany. According to CNN, over 53% of employees “sampled” by the Feds had “faulty” Social Security Numbers. That is to say, numbers belonging to children, numbers shared by several other individuals, numbers belonging to dead people, or numbers belonging to people not working for the company. Among those arrested, reports CNN, were seven current and former managers of the company.

“This is a scary proposition for many employers” says Bill Dolphin, Vice President of Asset Control. “We knew it would be just a matter of time before the government reacted to public sentiment against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. What we don’t know is what the Fed’s approach will be going forward. Their enforcement program has been random and arbitrary up to now, if one can say there has been an enforcement program at all”, says Dolphin. “We can only believe this is a glimpse of what’s to come. “It’s a warning shot across the bow of employers who don’t employ due diligence in determining a workers eligibility”.

Although verifying an applicant’s social security number as part of a pre-employment screening process is a “best practice”, some employers still don’t bother to do it, says Russ Rosenberg, President of Asset Control. “Without a social search all you have are spaces filled in on an application and an I-9, but nothing to check your information against. You’re placed in the position of having to take the applicant’s word for much of the information they provide. Employers just can’t afford to put themselves in that position any longer”.

Although employers can verify certain information with the Social Security Administration, post-hire, such as name and date of birth, this verification is of limited value. It won’t, for example, tell you if a number of individuals are sharing the same social security number, or, if the applicant has lived in places other than those listed on the employment application. If discrepancies can be uncovered before the applicant is hired, it saves both time and money. Problems uncovered post-hire most often result in a termination with recruitment and training losses.

Employers must think about documenting a due-diligence effort to screen out illegal workers. Whether using a social security number search or participating in the government’s SAVE program, Asset Control can assist you in constructing a defensible approach. Most investigations into the hiring of illegal workers are initiated as the result of complaints from employees and citizens, says Dolphin. With public sentiment against illegal workers at an all time high, any business that ignores the law is at risk.
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