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The Risky Path of Using Undocumented Workers

It’s not always easy to find people willing to work in the construction industry. While you may pay your workers very well, the job is still very physically demanding, and some people just don’t want to do that type of work.

Whether you need help setting up concrete forms or actually pouring the concrete, many companies find themselves relying on undocumented workers despite the risks that comes with employing those who aren’t legally in the U.S.

If your company has undocumented workers on its crew, you need to be aware of what risks you could be facing.

Recent Changes by the U.S. Government

Under the leadership of President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security has directed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take a more active approach in finding undocumented workers and punishing the companies that employ them.

They have begun checking the status of workers and making certain that all employees have an I-9 or W2 on file. They are auditing companies they suspect have undocumented immigrants working for them.

The number of these audits went from a little over 1,000 in 2017 to almost 6,000 in 2018. Most of them are focused on companies in the construction, agriculture, landscaping, and hospitality industries.

Penalties for Hiring Undocumented Workers

If you hire undocumented workers and ICE finds out, your company will be hit with large fines. The agency has begun increasing the number of fines, with first offenders facing as much as $2,000 per illegal employee. Those who have violated the law several times could face as much as $10,000 per illegal worker plus jail time. Also, you are likely to have your business license revoked.

Why Are Companies Still Hiring Illegal Workers?

Unfortunately, there is still a major lack of skilled workers in the construction industry. Without a full crew, a company cannot complete its contracts or take on new clients. While some illegal workers may not necessarily have advanced construction skills or be licensed to operate heavy machinery, they are still able to take on some of the basic tasks necessary to complete jobs. This allows employers to utilize their skilled workers in a more effective manner.

A number of companies are also looking into bringing workers legally into the country using H-2B visas. These visas are relevant to a number of industries, including landscaping and agriculture.

However, they are designed for workers who are involved in seasonal industries, not for industries that have work year-round. For construction workers, then, the H-2B visa offers only temporary work. While these workers can help with major projects, they cannot become permanent members of your crew.

Subcontractors and Illegal Workers

Another issue you may have is with subcontractors who hire illegal workers. If these workers are on your jobsite and are discovered by ICE, your company may be penalized. It’s up to you to do your due diligence when hiring subcontractors and make certain any workers they use are legal hires. This means you must carefully vet any subcontractors you use and make certain they vet all of their employees, contract hires, and anyone else who works for them.

The bottom line is that if it’s your job site, you’re responsible for everyone who is doing work on it. If someone is illegally working on the site, even if they’re not your direct employee, you will still be penalized if they’re discovered.

That being said, you’ll also need dependable forming and shoring equipment. Contact us to learn more.

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