Claremont Colleges say they've checked documents; some use E-Verify
CLAREMONT, Mar 31, 2012 (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Schools in the Claremont Colleges consortium use a variety of tools in checking their employees work authorization documentation.
From employment eligibility verification form I-9 to work authorization documents or Internet-based system E-Verify, officials from each insitution said they follow federal procedures.
The issue stems from Pomona College officials in early December firing 17 employees, mostly dining hall workers, for not providing paperwork that showed they were eligible to work in the United States.
Pomona College officials have blamed the school's size for why some employees were able to stay employed despite not having proper work authorization documentation.
"In any careful I-9 audit for a company of Pomona's size, a certain number of deficiencies are discovered," Pomona College spokesman Cynthia Peters said.
There are 871 current Pomona College employees, Peters said, adding during the audit the I-9 files of almost 2,000 current and former employees were reviewed.
But officials from other schools in the Claremont Colleges consortium have indicated they have not had such issues and are properly following federal procedure.
A complaint was made last spring to the Pomona College board of trustees about some of the college's workers not having proper documentation.
The accusation led to college officials reviewing all employees' I-9 files -- an employment eligibility verification form -- and work authorization documents.
"In the cases at Pomona (College), the deficiencies consisted of missing or incomplete I-9 forms, expired documents and documents that were presented on hire that when examined by an immigration law expert did not appear to be authentic," Peters said.
Pomona College's actions led to rallies, including one on Friday in which hundreds of people attended.
The college has more than 1,500 students and an academic staff of about 200 people.
Additionally, the college does not use the Internet-based system E-Verify, which runs workers' information against Homeland Security and Social Security databases to make sure they are allowed to work in the United States.
Peters said Pomona is not required to use E-Verify because it does not have federal contracts.
"E-verify has also had a number of issues over the years, including some with data accuracy," Peters said.
Officials from other Claremont Colleges said they have not had inquiries about their eligibility verification process and that they properly verify workers when they're hired.
Claremont McKenna College officials said they must obtain an I-9 form from an employee and verify supporting documents as required by the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Claremont McKenna spokesman Max Benavidez said the college re-verifies the information based on requirements of I-9 and Department of Homeland Security.
"If an employee chooses to present a document verifying employment authorization that contains an expiration date, we re-verify upon the date of expiration for that document," Benavidez said.
Pitzer College spokeswoman Anna Chang said the college requires all employees to comply with federal law and to show proof of eligibility to work in the United States during the hiring process.
Keck Graduate Institute spokesman Noel Brinkerhoff said each new hire has eligibility checked to work in the United States, but there is no reverification process after the initial eligibility check.
Claremont School of Theology's Human Resources Department requires picture identification and the forms of documentation required by the government for all new hires. Each new hire completes the federal I-9 form and documentation and has it verified by human resources, spokeswoman Claudia Pearce said.
Occasionally, the School of Theology has "had a non-U.S. citizen apply for a job without the proper documentation required by the I-9 form, and we have not hired them," Pearce said.
"If someone has a visa with a time limit, we provide a letter of hire for the length of time that their visa allows, and if we want them to work here longer, we require them to update their visa before we continue their employment."
Pearce added that her institution had used E-Verify "for a period of time in conjunction with completion of the I-9 process, but our HR Department found that the e-Verify database had a great many errors, so we stopped using it" and used a verification process instead.
"Because of new Federal compliance rules, however, our HR department is now completing the E-Verify tutorial and will soon take the exam," Pearce said. "They plan to begin using E-Verify again by the end of this month."
Claremont Graduate University spokesman Rod Leveque said the school "complies with the legal requirements related to verification of employment" and no one had approached the college asking about its verification process.
Additionally, Leveque said CGU uses E-Verify "when it is required pursuant to those regulations. In other circumstances, we rely on different background check systems."
Scripps College spokeswoman Rosa Maria Santana said that on an employee's first day of work the first section of the I-9 form must be presented. The new employee also must present requested documents to human resources.
"If an employee's right to work in the United States has an expiration date, the college is required by law to update the I-9 with a current document at expiration," Santana said.
Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga said the college has always had a policy and practice of collecting appropriate documents for all employees at the time of hire.
But Bettison-Varga did send out an email to the college community describing how seven employees on Nov. 30 received calls from human resources requesting them to complete new I-9 forms.
"It is my belief that the I-9 forms not stored on campus are at (Claremont University Consortium) in deep storage where personnel records from 1986 to 1998 are archived," she said. "There is no reason for any further questions or actions to be pursued."
Santana said the decision was not because of what happened at Pomona College but "because a few employees were called who did not have documents in paper files stored on campus. She stopped the calls because we do not need to have their personnel documents on campus."
The college does not use E-Verify because it is not required to, Santana said.
Judy Augsburger, Harvey Mudd College spokeswoman, said in email that the college "complies with federal regulations established by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, that require employers to timely verify through the I-9 process that all newly hired and rehired employees are authorized to work in the United States. Consistent with applicable law, HMC also re-verifies that an employee is still authorized to work in the United States whenever his or her employment authorization or documentation of employment authorization expires or name changes."
Pomona College spokeswoman Cynthia Peters said human resource staffers examine the presented documents to see that they "reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the individual presenting the document."
The documents are then copied for the employee's I-9 file.
The college earlier this year became aware of deficiencies in files of 84 employees regarding their work authorization documents.
The Board of Trustees made the decision to comply with federal law. All but 17 employees were able to resolve the issue.
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