The company behind major San
Francisco events like the 2013 America’s Cup, the opening of the Bay Bridge, as
well as two World Series parades, is no stranger to attending to every detail.
But just recently on July 8th, the specific details Hartmann Studios Inc.,
actually had been missing took the Department of Justice seventy-seven
pages to publish. With the concluding signatures, the order ends with a
record-breaking fine of over $600,000; the largest amount ever issued for an
While the news was just recently
broken, the story begins much further back to 2011. The company had revenues to
compete with Tiger Woods and made Bay Area news for the millions in contracts
won. Hartmann Studios Inc. had hundreds of employees and seemed prepared for
anything- except for the special agent from Immigration and Customs who showed
up with a letter for a routine inspection. Unlike many other employers in the
same situation, Hartmann Studios Inc. had reason to panic.
Even with management’s record
keeping practices, experience with a 1994 audit, and collection of documents
forwarded by the employees unions, the employment verification requirements
weren’t legally met. The regulations are nearly thirty years old but even the
company’s own executives said they were unaware employers had to sign the forms.
Employers may have managers who
aren’t familiar with legal requirements and managers may have employers who are
in the dark, but the law just isn’t flexible. Its important to ensure all aspects
are correctly followed without applying creative alternatives. The judge made
it clear that there is no substitute for noncompliance and severe penalties
will be established. In this case, the fine was actually reduced and then
issued as “motivation to conform”.
Enforcement has gone up
considerably and the amount of fines, settlements, investigations making the
news is an indicator of more to come. Employers have nothing to worry about if
they are well-versed in their obligations and have controls in place to monitor
for and remedy any violations.
Studios Inc. has learned the hard way that any employer should except a guest
from the government, but its the amount of preparation that will determine if
the visit is brief or will last four years.
Labels: California, compliance, court order, department of justice, Form I-9, I-9 Fines, ICE audit, Immigration Customs Enforcement, justice, Notice of Inspection, penalties, violations