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Audit: Colorado Employers Lax On Verifying Legal Status

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – DENVER (AP) — Nearly half of audited Colorado employers are not complying with a state law to verify the legal status of newly hired workers, according to a report released Monday.

An analysis from the Colorado Auditor’s office found that 48 percent of 404 employers audited by the state Division of Labor in 2010 didn’t comply with state law. State auditors emphasized that non-compliance doesn’t mean an employer hired an illegal immigrant and that lack of awareness about the law is a significant barrier to compliance.

The state audit of the division, which is charged with making sure employers are following the law, also found that officials aren’t being thorough in reviewing and investigating employer compliance.

The 2006 law requires employers to have paperwork showing they’ve reviewed a worker’s legal status and are keeping copies of employment authorization forms and worker’s identification. That’s in addition to having federal I-9 forms to document that workers are authorized to work in the U.S.

Non-compliance peaked in 2007 — the year the law took effect — when the rate reached 68 percent. The four-year average for non-compliance is 55 percent, among 1,140 employers audited by the Division of Labor.

“Since the law came into effect in January of 2007, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of employers who are non-compliant, so the word is getting out,” said Michael McArdle, the division’s director.

Employers who don’t follow the law can be fined $5,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for subsequent offenses.

The state audit said the division needs to improve its practices to ensure employer compliance with the law. For example, auditors found that division officials in some cases missed relevant facts in their investigations of employers, including late or unsigned affirmations by employers stating that they had followed the state guidelines for verification of a worker’s legal status.

The state law requires that employers complete documentation showing they reviewed a worker’s legal status within 20 days of the hire date. But in some instances, the state audit found that division officials found employers to be compliant, even when the employers backdated their affirmations.

Auditors recommended that division officials implement a process where supervisors inspect completed reviews of employer compliance. McArdle said his division is working to implement the audit’s recommendations.

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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