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Old 03-10-2011, 08:19 PM   #1
lexxi
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personnel records

What kind of records would a US business keep on its employees that would be evidence that some of the employees are illegal aliens working under false documents, for someone who was looking for it? I-9 forms and the identity documents supporting them? What else?

Hard copies and/or electronic files?
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:52 PM   #2
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That's basically it, if they want to hire illegals (or not worry about hiring them) with virtually no consequences. If they complete the I-9 and the documentation looks 'reasonably genuine', the company is off the hook. If they don't fill out the form, or the documentation is obviously false, then they face stiff fines. It wouldn't be that hard to look for them if you're working for the same company - just claim you're considering X for a promotion or transfer and just want to verify his/her paperwork - ie, have a business reason. Outside the company, the INS, Dept of Labor, and IRS can audit the paperwork.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:32 PM   #3
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The I-9 is pretty much it. Some companies choose to keep copies of the identifying documentation (SS cards/green cards/passports etc), though you'll find arguments for and against that practice.
With regard to someone being able to look at them... If you have a good HR Dept, that's not really going to be possible unless you work in HR or you're from an outside agency and conducting an audit. You wouldn't be able to walk into the HR office and tell them you're considering someone for a promotion and ask for their file. You'd have to actually have an open position for which that person had applied, and if you didn't, the HR person would/should know that. Even if you did, you'd only get access to performance reviews and disciplinary actions. You wouldn't get the whole file.
But more importantly, most companies don't keep I-9's in the employee's file. They're usually in their own binders (alphabetically). The binders would be kept in a locked cabinet for which only a few people have keys, often in a locked room or office.

ETA: Forgot to talk about electronic copies. The last company I worked for implemented an online database of employee files and I-9's. The paper copies of the documents were scanned and uploaded (this was a global company and HR support wasn't always local). If you're looking for a way to have someone gain access, you could have them hack into the system. Keep in mind, though, you're probably not going to find an online database in a company with only a few offices. It's costly to implement, and wouldn't serve enough of a purpose with a small company.

Last edited by annsquared; 03-10-2011 at 11:46 PM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:57 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by annsquared View Post
But more importantly, most companies don't keep I-9's in the employee's file.
Good point, which I neglected to mention. The I-9s aren't supposed to be kept with the personnel records. Companies would keep the supporting documents - otherwise they can't show (in an audit) that they ever got them.

As to access, it depends on how the company handles HR. The companies I've worked for, HR didn't get involved in anything but the paper shuffling - esp in 'create a position' type situations.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:25 AM   #5
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Companies would keep the supporting documents - otherwise they can't show (in an audit) that they ever got them.
At the risk of derailing the thread into a world of HR boringness that poor lexxi probably couldn't care less about : I would agree that the majority opinion is to keep copies of documentation with the I-9's (I always did). However, there are some who would disagree on the basis that it opens you up to potential issues if you are audited and they find that someone accidentally copied down a number incorrectly, or a copied document looks fake and the auditor feels the person should have caught it etc. And the proof that you received the documents is covered by signing the I-9 form where you copy the info and certify that you saw/verified them.

So here's where all this ties back to the original question - I promise!
If this company is knowingly hiring people who are not authorized to work in the US, they may take advantage of not being legally required to keep documentation on-hand. After all, if the green card someone gives them is an obvious fake, they probably wouldn't want to keep proof of that, especially when they could easily say there are legal opinions that advise not to.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:29 AM   #6
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Thanks, all.

Here's the situation I want to set up.

P is a part owner (daughter of the founder) of a family-owned construction company that often hires illegal day laborers and pays them in cash. Occasionally they have hired some of the better workers as permanent employees under falsified records.

P's father may or may not know about the falsified documents -- he may just trust her to handle that side of the business.

It's a small enough business that they probably wouldn't bother with an online database.

Quote:
But more importantly, most companies don't keep I-9's in the employee's file. They're usually in their own binders (alphabetically). The binders would be kept in a locked cabinet for which only a few people have keys, often in a locked room or office.
These binders would be my mcguffin, then.

I was thinking that P keeps the incriminating documents -- all the I-9s, or just the ones for the illegal employees? or documents that match up their real names with the names they're paid under? -- off-site in the office of a side business that is more of a hobby for her and not likely to get audited, but where she can have access to them if needed.

Only a murder has occurred on the grounds of the side business and P is one of the main suspects. She knows she didn't commit the murder, but she's afraid that the police will get a warrant to search the files and notify INS or whoever when they find the evidence of illegal hiring. So she wants to get rid of that evidence.

What exactly would that evidence be? And would she be better off destroying it or just removing it from a location that would be covered by a warrant related to the murder?



Also, I want my heroine T to get access to these documents while they're being moved to be hidden or destroyed and be able to see enough to suspect that there's something fishy going on -- she may or may not figure out exactly what.

T has done long-term office temp jobs in the past -- she could have experience working in a HR office that would give her knowledge to recognize discrepancies.

Last edited by lexxi; 03-11-2011 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:59 AM   #7
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Okay, so if P is hiring illegal aliens and paying them cash, she's definitely NOT going to be filling out I-9's for them. She's probably going to do her best to avoid any sort of paper trail that could confirm their existence. So...on to the ones she hires with false documentation.
She would have to fill out an I-9 for the employees she officially hires. I would say she's probably not going to keep copies of the documents (by documents, I mean the supporting docs the employee brings in to prove they're legal...driver's lic, green card etc., not the actual I9) because it's not required that she do so, and if the documents are obviously fake, she wouldn't want copies that could prove it. That said, you can make her as stupid as you want her to be, I guess. If you don't have her keep copies of the documents, then there's really nothing for your heroine to notice, since I-9's are just a form with the numbers copied over. Based on the I-9 form alone, I'm not sure your heroine would be able to spot anything strange.
It would be very weird for P to keep the records at another site, though I suppose if questioned she could make up a plausible excuse - maybe that she was reviewing them for ones that needed to be updated?

She wouldn't want to destroy the I9's for the illegal hires. I would say having none at all would cause greater suspicion than keeping them and hoping she wouldn't get caught.

This question is one that I'm probably not qualified to answer though: Would the police care about a binder of I-9's if they're investigating a murder? I suppose if they suspected it might be related to illegal hiring in some way, but if not, I'm not sure they'd even look twice at them. Of course, if you just need P to freak and want to move them out of the side business so that your heroine can notice something strange, you could argue P moving them just to be safe is reasonable.
Hope that answers your questions!

Last edited by annsquared; 03-11-2011 at 01:06 AM. Reason: Last sentence magically transported itself to the middle of the response.
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:05 AM   #8
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Just a thought, but maybe you could make the I9's only part of the evidence? If P is paying people, even in cash, that money has to be recorded in the financials of the company in some fashion. Maybe your heroine could notice the bookkeeping discrepancies which causes her to look at the I9's more closely? Maybe she notices employees that are being paid but are not official employees in the company? That may be a bit more plausible than I-9's alone.
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annsquared View Post
Okay, so if P is hiring illegal aliens and paying them cash, she's definitely NOT going to be filling out I-9's for them. She's probably going to do her best to avoid any sort of paper trail that could confirm their existence.
Right.

Quote:
It would be very weird for P to keep the records at another site, though I suppose if questioned she could make up a plausible excuse - maybe that she was reviewing them for ones that needed to be updated?
Hm. Would it be plausible that they kept documents for all the legal employees and they're only missing for the illegal ones?

Or that several different illegals are working under the same social security number and there's some record of who got paid how much under that number?

One of the illegals -- the real killer, as a matter of fact, although no one else knows that yet -- also works at the side business, so it could just be something about his records that would look fishy. But probably not fishy enough to make a big deal about moving the record.

What I'd like is for my heroine T to learn enough from the records or the fact that they're being moved to figure out that P has something to hide and that that something might be strong enough to be a motive for murder. Having to pay some fines probably isn't strong enough, but if P's father is unaware of the illegal hiring, if the victim apparently found out about it, and if the father is running for public office and his campaign would be destroyed if the illegal hiring were discovered, that might seem like a strong enough motive.

The other thing T might learn from looking through the records is that the killer is not in fact American, as she had believed, which would be a big clue toward the real solution to the mystery. But I want P to look guiltier to begin with.

Quote:
This question is one that I'm probably not qualified to answer though: Would the police care about a binder of I-9's if they're investigating a murder? I suppose if they suspected it might be related to illegal hiring in some way, but if not, I'm not sure they'd even look twice at them.
The victim had broken into the personnel files earlier. If the police know that and P knows that, but not the real reason she broke into them, it could look like she would threaten to reveal P's hiring crimes.

Quote:
Of course, if you just need P to freak and want to move them out of the side business so that your heroine can notice something strange, you could argue P moving them just to be safe is reasonable.
Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm going with.

I can get T alone with the files in their new hiding place and give her time to examine them. I'm just trying to figure out what she can learn from them.
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:51 AM   #10
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This is very interesting. I was unable to find work in the USA- unless I was willing to stand in a parking lot with swarms of Mexican gentlemen and take what came along.
I'm in Canada, where no such laws exist, or if they do, are utterly ignored across the board. In the USA it comes down to the identity card (forget what it's called), one of which can be purchased, and then the company would be off the hook if the person was caught?
The card was under a hundred bucks, didn't look quite right, but would fool most stores, restaurants etc.
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Old 03-11-2011, 04:01 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by lexxi View Post

Hm. Would it be plausible that they kept documents for all the legal employees and they're only missing for the illegal ones?
I would think P would have documentation for the illegal ones (the ones she officially hired, not the ones paid under the table), but T could maybe notice the age of say, Billy Bob, doesn't look quite right. Maybe T knows he's in his 30's, but according to his fake driver's lic he's 45?

Or that several different illegals are working under the same social security number and there's some record of who got paid how much under that number? Not sure how that would work. Wages get tied to a SSN, so if you had several people all with the same SSN, you'd risk raising red flags in the IRS etc.

One of the illegals -- the real killer, as a matter of fact, although no one else knows that yet -- also works at the side business, so it could just be something about his records that would look fishy. But probably not fishy enough to make a big deal about moving the record.

What I'd like is for my heroine T to learn enough from the records or the fact that they're being moved to figure out that P has something to hide and that that something might be strong enough to be a motive for murder. Having to pay some fines probably isn't strong enough, but if P's father is unaware of the illegal hiring, if the victim apparently found out about it, and if the father is running for public office and his campaign would be destroyed if the illegal hiring were discovered, that might seem like a strong enough motive.
Yeah, if they're paying people under the table, the dad's probably going to know, unless he's the head of the co. in name only and not really involved. But P and the illegal employees could also face criminal charges (as well as the possibility of being held personally responsible for fines) for falsifying the I-9 documents. P could also be held criminally responsible for paying the employees under the table (tax evasion).
The other thing T might learn from looking through the records is that the killer is not in fact American, as she had believed, which would be a big clue toward the real solution to the mystery. But I want P to look guiltier to begin with.



The victim had broken into the personnel files earlier. If the police know that and P knows that, but not the real reason she broke into them, it could look like she would threaten to reveal P's hiring crimes.

Ah, got it.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm going with.

I can get T alone with the files in their new hiding place and give her time to examine them. I'm just trying to figure out what she can learn from them.
If P kept copies of the supporting docs then you could use an example like above with the ages/driver's lic. If she didn't keep copies, then probably not much would stand out.
You could also have T notice that there are a number of employees with no I-9's. So she's flipping through the binder 'cause she caught T sneaking it into the office late at night and "oh hai...how come Mary Sue doesn't have an I9?" and "Oh look, Joe Smith doesn't have one either." If she's got experience in HR, noticing a lot of them missing, especially if P was acting shady about them already, would definitely raise some red flags.
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:19 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by annsquared View Post
Just a thought, but maybe you could make the I9's only part of the evidence? If P is paying people, even in cash, that money has to be recorded in the financials of the company in some fashion. Maybe your heroine could notice the bookkeeping discrepancies which causes her to look at the I9's more closely? Maybe she notices employees that are being paid but are not official employees in the company? That may be a bit more plausible than I-9's alone.
So what kind of hard copy documents might there be that would show the bookkeeping discrepancies? Printouts of spreadsheets?

T isn't going to have access to any confidential electronic documents. But I can give her access to the hard copies that P is trying to hide.
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Old 03-18-2011, 06:08 AM   #13
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The easy way to hire illegaal immigrants is to contract with someone to provide tempsorary workers. The contractor is responsible for all documents. If the contractor gives the company a letter saying that everyone was legal, then the company is off the hook and the contractor can fold his tent and vanish at any time.
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Old 03-18-2011, 06:17 AM   #14
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But if my character did it in a way that left no traces, I'd have no story.

Well, I wouldn't have that subplot.

Anyway, at least one of those illegal workers is now a permanent employee. But the hiding incriminating evidence subplot works better if there have been enough of those over the years to generate a box full of paperwork.
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:56 AM   #15
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There isn't a list matching a name with a payroll record.

The way it's usually done is that the illegal uses the names on the stolen IDs, or has good fakes made up under his/her real name. Some identity theft has been uncovered because the owner of the SSN got an indication that their SSN was being used in a different state.

It can happen with a credit check, a criminal background check, or a pre-employment background check.
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Old 03-29-2011, 09:27 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lexxi View Post
What kind of records would a US business keep on its employees that would be evidence that some of the employees are illegal aliens working under false documents, for someone who was looking for it? I-9 forms and the identity documents supporting them? What else?

Hard copies and/or electronic files?
Lexxi, I would not concentrate on the records in the personnel file. I know companies that keep lawyers on retainers to make the documentation pass the rules. I would look at it from the stand point that there are two types of undocumented workers. There are those that forge the paperwork to appear legal and those that take the identity U.S. Citizens and just pretend to be them.

When the later happens the work is reported under the social security number of the U.S. Citizen and, if there is enough tax withheld from the wages, the IRS does not contact anyone because there is no tax revenue to recover. That would take resources the IRS cannot afford to waste. However, if the reported income causes a balance due the U.S. Citizen would get a nasty note from Uncle Sam saying you did not report all your income.

The citizen contacts their CPA who calls the company and tells them that the person working for them is not their client and would they please file a corrected W-2. Then the CPA contacts the IRS and puts them on notice of the identity theft. The IRS makes sure there is no contention as to the proper resolution and their fraud department may or may not get involved. Again, it is a matter of whether there will be any addition tax forth coming that motivates additional action.

I see all kinds of possibilities for things to happen that would provide circumstantial evidence to a crime.
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Old 03-30-2011, 12:32 AM   #17
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Thanks.

Quote:
I see all kinds of possibilities for things to happen that would provide circumstantial evidence to a crime.
Such as what?

I'm not interested in investigating the employment fraud in any detail. It's fine with me if P is still getting away with it by the end of the story.

What I'm interested in is using the fact that P was trying to cover something up as a reason to suspect P of committing a homicide. Since P didn't really commit the homicide, attention will later turn toward the real culprit. But in order to keep suspicion on P for a few chapters, I need some evidence against her that suggests she had a motive for murder.

Right now I'm going with the I-9 documents and detailed accounts of who really got paid how much for each construction job, which will not match records of who got paid how much for the year because some workers were paid under the table and/or payments to several different workers were recorded under the same social security number.
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Old 03-30-2011, 08:37 AM   #18
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Such as what?
Such as being the uncontrolled element. The murderer has no control over the third party getting the IRS notice. They could have gotten away with it for years. Out of the blue, the president of the company gets a phone call from an irate individual that wants to know why the IRS is billing them for taxes on wages they were not paid. In the process the exec finds out that someone is not who they say they are.

You would have to fit the circumstances to your plot line but it gives you the reveal that clears the fog the murder is hiding behind. Sure, use the I-9 if you can to keep suspicion alive but how are you going to remove that suspicion when it is time to show the real murderer?

By the way, I don't write murder mysteries but your thread caught my attention because when I audit companies the I-9 is such an insignificant document. The audit procedure is to confirm they have one. What's on it is almost treated as irrelevant.

Good luck with your story.
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