By Aaron TeCroney
Much has been written and discussed about Form I-9, but let’s take a quick refresher with a focus on I-9 retention and purging practices. First and foremost, it is very important to properly complete an I-9 for all employees hired after 11/6/86. Employers must review an employee’s document (s) and fully complete Section 2 within 3 business days of hire. I-9s must be retained in the event of someone questioning hiring procedures. APS highly recommends keeping all completed I-9s together in a single folder, completely separate from any other documents. If I-9s are ever requested, only produce exactly what is requested, no more and no less. Keep all original I-9s and provide copies of forms for inspection, if requested. Also, be sure to review your I-9s periodically to purge eligible forms.
The reasons of purging I-9s are rarely discussed and often misunderstood. As per the M-274 Handbook for Employers on p. 27, “Employers must retain an employee’s completed Form I-9 for as long as the individual works for the employer. [And] . . . either three years after the date of hire, or one year after the date employment is terminated, whichever is later.” To help understand this cumbersome sentence, here is an example of both clauses. Jorge and Carlos were both hired on 1/1/10. Jorge was a loyal employee who worked until 6/1/13, which means his form can be purged on or after 6/2/14. The “one year after employee termination” stipulation is triggered because he was working for at least 3 years, and forms are to be retained for the longer of the 2 options. Carlos, however, had a sick relative emergency and left employment one month (2/1/10) after he was hired. His I-9 needs to remain on file until 1/2/13 because 3 years from the date of hire is greater than 1 year after his final day of work.
Perhaps the most important reason to periodically purge I-9s is to legally dispose of forms containing uncorrectable, thus finable errors. If an I-9 audit discovers old, error-filled forms, the employer is held accountable. If these forms have been purged, they are no longer a concern. Potentially hundreds of dollars in fees were purged away! You now also have more space in the office.
If you have any questions or need help with the procedures in this article, please contact APS for more information about Form I-9.