Recent investigative reports have revealed the Department of Labor’s crackdown on organizations found to have minors working in high-risk industries that prohibit employing anyone under 18 years of age. In a number of these cases, the minors were also identified as being unauthorized to work in the U.S. The convergence of these issues amplifies the potential for severe legal consequences, financial liabilities, damage to reputation, and operational disruptions.
Recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, rebranded their “Worksite Enforcement Unit,” which focused on I-9 compliance and employers hiring unauthorized workers, to the “Labor Exploitation Unit.” The rebranded investigative and auditing unit states their focus as follows:
“Labor exploitation cases target employers involved in criminal activity and worker exploitation, and often entail other forms of criminal activity such as noncitizen smuggling, document fraud, human rights abuses or other violations linked to the employment of unauthorized workers.”
Business should take note that the Federal Government has made enforcement of these types of labor violations a national priority. First and foremost, businesses should thoroughly evaluate their internal I-9 and employee work authorization compliance efforts, as well as those of their close supply chain partners. This is particularly important for organizations that have job duties that do not allow minors to be employed.
In addition to reviewing internal compliance standards and controls, organizations relying on contracted labor should not only assess their own internal standards and controls but also verify that their supply chain partners have robust compliance measures in place. This is particularly crucial when contracted employees are working within your company’s premises.
Compliance controls should focus on I-9 requirements, document fraud indicators and identity fraud/misuse indicators. The identity fraud/misuse indicators may come in the form of employee and external complaints, contacts from law enforcement, identity mismatch notices from regulators, and job application inconsistencies. Assessing and analyzing these indicators timely and consistently may provide employers with early indicators that there may be a problem.
Engaging an independent consultant to review compliance controls can often yield greater effectiveness compared to relying solely on in-house employees. Consultants typically bring valuable expertise, as they possess extensive experience and knowledge of best practices in the field. Moreover, our team’s prior roles in enforcement provide a unique perspective and insight into compliance requirements, enabling us to offer a comprehensive evaluation and suggest improvements tailored to the organization’s specific needs.
It is crucial for organizations to prioritize compliance, ensure robust internal controls, and implement stringent measures to prevent the employment of unauthorized minors. By taking proactive steps to address these risks, businesses can safeguard their operations, reputation, and long-term success.