Can I face criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers?

Officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department are tasked with investigating companies in South Carolina suspected of hiring undocumented employees. While generally a civil offense, you may face criminal charges if accused of a pattern of hiring individuals who are unauthorized to work in the U.S. To be convicted of violating a law, however, prosecutors must prove that you “knowingly” hired undocumented workers, as noted by the Society for Human Resource Management.

To avoid any suspicions of hiring or employing unauthorized workers, you may use the federal government’s E-Verify system. By using this electronic verification system, you can determine if an individual possesses authorization to work in the U.S. The verification system compares information on a potential employee’s I-9 form to government records to assist you in making a lawful hiring decision.

According to an analysis conducted by Bloomberg, South Carolina requires private employers to use E-Verify to check on an applicant’s legal status before making a hire. As noted by SHRM, the state’s enforcement of requiring companies to use this system is nonexistent. The Palmetto State, however, is the only state in the nation that conducts audits on employers to uncover violations.

Based on Bloomberg’s analysis, South Carolina cited more than 1,600 companies for violations between the years 2013 and 2017. None of these employers, however, faced any severe punishment other than a one-year requirement to submit quarterly employment records. Accordingly, fines and harsh penalties are rare in accusations of not using the E-Verify system to check on an employee’s legal status.

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.