Risk management in livestock production takes many forms. Animal-management practices reduce risk of disease, safety training reduces risk of human injuries, while futures, options and other marketing tools reduce price risk. To minimize regulatory risk, including fines, legal fees and loss of critical staff members, livestock operations must properly document every employee they hire.
As large livestock operations in many areas of the United States have come to rely on immigrant workers to fill their staffing needs, they’ve also faced the challenge of documenting worker eligibility.
Jeff Joseph is a senior partner with Joseph Law Firm in Denver. The firm specializes in immigration law, and Joseph represents several large livestock operations in Colorado. Last fall, he spoke to a group of producers at an Extension workshop in eastern Colorado, updating them on their risks and responsibilities in hiring immigrant workers. M.J. Fisher, the area livestock Extension agent who organized the event, says he constantly receives questions on the topic from feedyard and dairy managers in his area, and the program was well attended.
At the core of the issue, Joseph says, is the federal “Form I-9.” Today’s employment regulations date to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which applied the immigration laws to U.S. citizens. This law required employers, for the first time, to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all persons hired for employment, using the I-9 form. The IRCA imposed administrative sanctions ranging from $375 to $16,000 for hiring violations and $110 to $1,100 for paperwork violations.
Allie Devine, with the Devine and Donley Law Firm, Topeka, Kan., serves as special counsel for the NCBA. She notes that employers are required to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals hired in the United States after Nov. 6, 1986. This means that the employer must complete and maintain a Form I-9 for each such employee. This is required even if the employer utilizes some other form of employment verification such as the E-Verify system. Employers should note that some sections are required to be completed and signed by the employee.
Employers are required by law to maintain for inspection original I-9 forms for all current employees, she adds. Employers must retain the I-9 forms for at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer.