Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Immigration and HR

Companies are required to follow the law.  Sometimes the question comes up about which law - city, state, federal - should you be following as a Human Resources professional.  In a perfect world, the answer would be all three, all the time, every time.  However, with the tricky subject of immigration, there are sometimes contradictory laws and enforcement in place.  Let’s talk about that for a moment.  As always, please feel free to leave a respectful comment or opinion about your own experiences in the area below this post.

Immigration and HR

Immigrant workers can be a wonderful addition to your workforce.  They may bring with them ideas and skills that are difficult to find in domestic employees in your local area.  However, workers that did not immigrate legally present a challenge.

Within the United States, Federal Law makes it illegal to employ Undocumented Workers.  However, there are 31 cities where local ordinances have created Sanctuary Cities; locations where police and local authorities are compelled to not enforce these Federal Laws.  As a result, many of these workers are employed and HR professionals should know how to deal with them.

First off, I would suggest speaking to your local SHRM, checking with your lawyer, and consulting your ordinances.  Laws and enforcement will vary from location to location.  This may be a case where you might be best following the local laws first.  If there are physical conflicts that arise, you may need the aid of local police.  If the conflict arises from your attempt to follow National Law in the hiring process, but local ordinance prohibits enforcement, you could have an HR nightmare on your hands.

Oftentimes, Sanctuary Cities will offer a Municipal ID Card or other form of identification card.  This card may be used to identify and assist the HR rep with tracking the employee.  If non-enforcement of national immigration laws is the norm in your area, you would want to treat the Undocumented Worker the same as every other employee to the greatest extent possible.  They should have tax withheld the same, benefits applied the same, and be treated in a non-discriminatory manner.  Hiring for employment should continue to be without regard to race, color, religion, sex or national origin. 

Do not, under any circumstance, ever try to exploit the undocumented workers.  Beyond the unethical and immoral ramifications of using a person’s undocumented status against them, it can also put you in jail.  A recent story in the news talked about how 7-11 had undocumented workers that they were effectively using as slaves.  Now those employers have had their franchises taken away from them and may face prison time.

There may be immigration reform on the horizon which may or may not affect the HR professional.  A change in immigration laws may not be enforced locally.  This will continue to be a tricky subject for Human Resources departments in the foreseeable future.

And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.



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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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