On July 8, 2015, the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), the administrative court with jurisdiction to review penalties for I-9 violations, issued a decision in the matter of United States v. Hartmann Studios, Inc., 11 OCAHO no. 1255 (2015), ordering the employer to pay civil penalties in the amount of $605,250. In Hartmann, the employer, Hartmann Studios, Inc., an event design and production company, had undergone an I-9 enforcement audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On May 14, 2013, ICE had issued a Notice of Intent to Fine, seeking penalties in the total amount of $812,665.25. On June 12, 2013, the employer had filed a request for a hearing before OCAHO.

In its decision, OCAHO discussed the seriousness of the violations as well as the employer’s lack of good faith prior to the commencement of the audit. While the majority of the errors were related to paperwork completion failures, OCAHO found that the company’s I-9 procedures were sufficiently defective to foreclose a claim of either good faith or substantial compliance. In its decision, OCAHO stated that the employer appeared to need “additional motivation to conform its employment verification processes to what the law requires.”

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