Justice Department: Don’t share I-9 forms with outside vendors

Sharing employee information with outside vendors often makes sense—for example, when an employer sets up a retirement benefits plan. The plan administrator needs access to lots of details about employees.

But not every vendor does. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently concluded that sharing employee information that appears on I-9 forms and in the online E-Verify system would violate immigration laws.

Employers use I-9 forms and the E-Verify system to confirm employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S.

The DOJ ruling came after an employer sought clarification: Could a paycard vendor request access to the employer’s I-9 data so it could verify the identity of the employees to whom it would be issuing paycards? The vendor also wanted to require the employer to retain I-9 forms for five years after an employee terminated “for inspection purposes.”

The DOJ shot down the practice. Its ruling said I-9 forms may only be used to enforce immigration laws, and sharing those forms with a third party had nothing to do with that purpose.

Note: Perhaps the paycard vendor was being overly cautious in trying to verify employees’ identities. After all, identity theft is a huge and growing problem, and it may have believed I-9 forms would provide the best confirmation that employees really are who they say they are. However, that’s not what the forms are for.

Advice: Remember, you must check employees’ documents, but you don’t have to be a detective about it. You must accept documents if they look genuine and appear regular on their face. Don’t make any inquiries about the validity of the information appearing on those documents.