Wage and Hour Continues Gin Emphasis Program

Even though this year has barely gotten under way for most gins, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has started making its presence felt in much of our region. We have recently received reports of virtual investigations in NC, SC and AL. We understand an in-person investigation is scheduled but has yet to be conducted in SC.

This is the second year of a regional cotton gin emphasis program. Association staff has met with Wage and Hour staff in both NC and SC recently. It was a very constructive meeting. They provided the documents linked at the bottom of this article for ginners resources. We can only assume that this emphasis program will continue until a low number of violations (even very minor ones) are found. This is the first time that NC has been involved. It is unknown how many gins will be inspected in any given state but last year 10-15 gins across the region were visited.

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Georgia Ag Labor Relations Forum Goes Virtual

Each year, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association holds a labor relations forum. This forum brings speakers from many aspects of agricultural labor from regulators to farm labor contractors (FLC’s) to attorneys for employers to discuss anything and everything affecting the ag community.

The forum is geared toward the produce and fruit industries but as we have become more reliant on migrant workers and more gins have had to resort to desperate measures to find labor, our interests are running together. This year’s forum has gone virtual.

Normally held in October/November each year and held in Tifton, this forum is not typically friendly to gin participation. The organizers have elected to make this a virtual meeting in light of Covid and it is spread out over a longer period. This may give you (our membership) more opportunity to listen in and participate.

This is the second year we have been a sponsor of this forum. It is a good opportunity to learn more about how other industries are dealing with the legal and regulatory aspects of migrant labor and H2A.

You can find more information at http://www.georgiaaglaborforum.com/.

New M-274 Handbook Available

Earlier this year the USCIS announced a new I-9 form. The I-9 is the document that employers must use every time they put a new employee on the payroll. We discussed this in an earlier blog post when the new form was announced in January. The M-274 is the manual that goes along with the I-9 and contains a lot of really good information that helps when understanding how the I-9 works.

Probably more importantly, the M-274 explains what to do and what not to do when filling one out or having a new employee fill one out.

Please find the new M-274 at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/handbook-employers-m-274

Remember the US Federal Government is the only place a 2 page form can have 10+ pages of instructions and a 80+ page manual.

Give us a call if you have questions.

DSF

New I-9 Published Today

On Jan. 31, 2020, USCIS published the Form I-9 Federal Register notice announcing a new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, that the Office of Management and Budget approved on Oct. 21, 2019. This new version contains minor changes to the form and its instructions. Employers should begin using this updated form as of Jan. 31, 2020.

The notice provides employers additional time to make necessary updates and adjust their business processes. Employers may continue using the prior version of the form (Rev. 07/17/2017 N) until April 30, 2020. After that date, they can only use the new form with the 10/21/2019 version date. The version date is located in the lower left corner of the form.

USCIS made the following changes to the form and its instructions:

Form:

Revised the Country of Issuance field in Section 1 and the Issuing Authority field (when selecting a foreign passport) in Section 2 to add Eswatini and Macedonia, North per those countries’ recent name changes. (Note: This change is only visible when completing the fillable Form I-9 on a computer.)

Instructions:

  • Clarified who can act as an authorized representative on behalf of an employer
  • Updated USCIS website addresses
  • Provided clarifications on acceptable documents for Form I-9
  • Updated the process for requesting paper Forms I-9
  • Updated the DHS Privacy Notice

A revised Spanish version of Form I-9 with a version date of 10/21/2019 is available for use in Puerto Rico only.

For more information, visit I-9 Central or join a free Form I-9 webinar

Are You Ready for an Audit

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 Continue reading

How’s your I-9 Compliance?

One of the issues discussed at this year’s state unit meetings was that of the new I-9 Employment eligibility form. The I-9 form must be filled out by every new hire or rehire before going to work and they must present documents proving they are eligible to work by the 3rd day of work. This seems simple enough but the I-9 is one form that has employed countless attorneys and whole careers have been made defending employers and keeping employers in compliance with this deceptively simple form.

In addition to the new form coming out, another reason to pay attention to this form is concern among employment law attorneys that the Trump administration will pick up where the Bush administration left off with workplace raids and employer audits. We haven’t seen that much yet and no gins that I know of have been subject to USCIS audit but there has been a slight increase in the number of employer audits in a number of industries. They aren’t widespread but it is typical for Republican administrations to be a bit more tough on illegal immigration and with the rhetoric during the campaign, we should be on guard.

The USCIS has created some decent resources in its I-9 Central Page. This is a page that is dedicated to helping employers and employees complete the I-9 properly and helping to Continue reading