Employing illegal workers

At a minimum, all employers have to follow one simple law:  each employee must be legally authorized to work.  With an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants  in the U.S., chances are pretty good that you (a) know of an employer or (b) are, in fact, an employer that presently employs an illegal worker.  If you fall into the “b” category, you’d better be aware of the risks. In 2010, there were an estimated 190,000 unauthorized workers in Washington and 110,000 in Oregon. 

Despite the law, some employers choose to ignore it by thinking that it’s not a big deal or that there’s little chance of being caught.  And that, unfortunately, may have been exactly what an owner and manager of a popular restaurant in San Diego were thinking.  Last month, The French Gourmet, along with its owner and manager, were sentenced in federal court on charges that the business hired illegal workers.  The government alleged that the three defendants–business, owner, and manager–hired illegal workers between 2005 and 2008 and continued to employ them knowing they were unauthorized to work.  When the government raided the business in 2008, the business was employing eighteen illegal alien workers.

After the defendants pled guilty, the federal judge fined the business and owner jointly and severally for $396,575 and the manager for $2,500 for knowingly employing illegal workers.  Luckily, the judge spared the owner and manager up to six months of prison time by sentencing them to five and three years of supervised probation, respectively. 

This recent example should serve as a clear reminder to businesses, owners, and upper management that they need to follow the law by employing only legal workers.  By completing the required I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for each employee, employers will not only be following the law, but will have the needed proof when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducts an inspection.   

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