Illegal immigrant or independent contractor?

As the roofing industry becomes more reliant on an immigrant work force, reviewing and refamiliarizing yourself with immigration and employment laws can save you a great deal of headaches and possible exposure to liability. One aspect of immigration and employment law that can save you from trouble is learning your legal liability for, and how to deal with, your independent contractors and subcontractors.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to verify every employee they hire is legally entitled to work in the U.S. IRCA makes it illegal for any U.S. employer to hire, recruit or refer for a fee an alien known to be unauthorized to work; continue to employ an alien known to be unauthorized; and hire, recruit or refer for a fee any person (citizen or alien) without following the act's recordkeeping requirements.

If you knowingly hire illegal immigrants or permit illegal immigrants to work after discovering they are not legal, you face fines and penalties. Fines and penalties also are assessed against employers who fail to document compliance regardless of whether any of the employees are illegal. Fines range from $100 to $1,100 per employee for paperwork violations depending on the employer's size. Fines jump to $250 to $11,000 per each unauthorized alien employed. However, there are two exemptions.

The first exemption is known as the "grandfather" clause, which exempts those unauthorized aliens hired on or before Nov. 6, 1986, the date of the law's enactment.