If you’ve just hired a new employee, here’s something to consider: He or she doesn’t become a sanctioned employee in the eyes of the federal government, New York City or the State of New York until he or she gives you a completed I-9 form.

What is the I-9 form and why is it important? Essentially the I-9 form — known officially as the I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification form — represents an employee’s legal eligibility to work. The form includes documents that the government deems acceptable to establish identity and that an employee may need to produce to prove eligibility to work in the U.S.

The I-9 documents need to be presented to you by the employee within three business days of the employee’s first paid workday. In the event that he or she has temporary work authorization, you need to take note of the expiration date of that authorization and re-verify the employee’s documents before they expire.

While it’s important for a prospective employee to complete an I-9 form, it’s essential that you, the business owner or HR manager, receive one from every new employee and keep it on file.  You need to examine each I-9 document to ensure that it appears legitimate and reasonably represents the person you are hiring; once you make these determinations, you need to accept them. (Failure to accept them could be considered discrimination on the basis of the prospective employee’s immigration status.) Should you knowingly hire an undocumented employee or accept documents that appear falsified, the onus falls on you, the employer, and you could be held criminally responsible for hiring an undocumented worker and liable for heavy fines.

It is you, the employer, who is responsible for keeping your employees’ I-9 forms on file. The forms need to be retained for either three years after the employee’s hiring date, or for one year after an employee’s last day of work, whichever is later. Failure to collect and retain an I-9 form from every employee can put you  at risk.

Even if one of your employees is considered undocumented, he or she is still bound and protected by the laws covering documented workers. This includes laws governing minimum wage requirements, overtime pay, the right to form a union, protection against workplace harassment, and other job-related stipulations. Undocumented employees may not be entitled to all remedies as documented workers, however.

The bottom line is this: Hiring today is more complicated than ever and keeping track of required documentation can be overwhelming. Make sure your employees are eligible to work in the U.S. and have all the necessary documentation to obtain employment in the State of New York (and in the City of New York, if applicable).

An Accu Data Workforce Solutions representative can explain how our software can help you expedite complex HR issues, stay in compliance with local, state and federal eligibility regulations, and make hiring and managing employees a lot more efficient and cost-effective for your business.