When we hear the word audit, we (or at least I) think of the IRS but businesses around the country, especially seasonal or that use a lot of migrant or immigrant labor have a lot more to worry about when it comes to Audits. ICE and Wage and Hour have both been stepping up their efforts to make sure employees are both legal and paid properly.
A recent article by attorneys in the restaurant space outlines how much more raid and audit activity ICE has been working on since the beginning of the year. ICE has more than tripled the audits and raids on employers compared to all of 2017 according to the authors. The article goes on to discuss what employers should do to prepare. More than 5200 employers received notices of intent to audit earlier this year. The advice given in the article is good for all employers including cotton gins as the preparation for any kind of audit or inspection is similar.
Even though the ginning season is coming up, now would be a great time to conduct a self-audit of your i-9 forms you have on file and correct any problems you may have. A quick google search on I-9 self audit should turn up a lot of resources for you to review including articles by the USCIS and the SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management). Self audits are a good tool to ‘limit the damage’ in the case of an ICE raid or audit. If you get raided, you may face losing employees that have falsified documents but if the I-9’s are in order, you can help to keep the fines down and know what exactly to expect.
The reason I’ve written this is not to scare anyone but to make sure we all take the steps lined out in the article above and have policies in place for ANY kind of government inspection. At some point, cotton gins may be visited by one or more of several regulating government agencies. Department of Transportation, OSHA, Wage and Hour, ICE and Air Quality regulators are just a few. You should have policies in place and your employees should be trained on how to handle a visit. Who is the point of contact? What happens if that person is not there (back-up plan)? Do you have review and self-assessment programs in place? Do you have an attorney available to help with the inspection and follow-up?
Please take a few minutes to review the article linked in the second paragraph and get yourself ready. Audits aren’t just from the IRS any longer, there are a lot of other three and four letter agencies that may come knocking.