On September 28, 2010, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a $1,047,110 settlement with clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to its obligation to verify the employment eligibility of its workers. The fine settles a case stemming from the November 2008 I-9 audit of Abercrombie’s retail stores in Michigan. The audit uncovered numerous “technology-related deficiencies” in Abercrombie’s electronic I-9 verification system, causing ICE to question the integrity and validity of the company’s I-9s. ICE did not detect any instances of Abercrombie knowingly hiring of unauthorized aliens (which would have led to even more severe fines).  

“Employers are responsible not only for the people they hire but also for the internal systems they choose to utilize to manage their employment process and those systems must result in effective compliance,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI for Ohio and Michigan. “This settlement should serve as a warning to other companies that may not yet take the employment verification process seriously or provide it the attention it warrants.”  

Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire. That process requires employers to review the individual’s identity and employment eligibility document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual. The employment eligibility documents must be re-verified upon expiration.  

This settlement is part of ICE’s new strategy to focus its resources on auditing “employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers.” ICE reports that, in the past year, it has leveled a record number of penalties against employers who have violated immigration laws.