ICE audit prompts Jackson actions
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Jun 26, 2013 | 2218 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An internal investigation prompted by a federal agency audit is ongoing at one of Cleveland’s largest employers regarding the legal status of some of its employees.

More than 900 employees make up the workforce at Jackson Furniture Industries whose primary brand includes Catnapper.

Todd DeLuca, director of Human Resources at Jackson Furniture, said last week that a number of employees had left their positions after additional documentation was requested by the company.

When contacted by the Cleveland Daily Banner at that time, DeLuca did not disclose that the company action was part of an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement audit. However, the ICE involvement has now been confirmed.

Late this morning, DeLuca declined to specify the number of employees who had left their positions. He did confirm production has been impacted and that several assembly lines were merged. However, he pointed out the company continues to meet its production demands.

“We consolidated lines to keep production going,” he said today.

According to DeLuca, this is the first time Jackson Furniture Industries has been audited by ICE or the Department of Homeland Security.

“I have worked closely with the ICE agents and we have complied completely with the investigation,” he added.

DeLuca also forwarded a prepared company statement to the Banner this morning. The full statement reads as follows:

“Like thousands of other companies across the U.S.A., Jackson Furniture Industries was recently the subject of an audit by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During the audit it was determined that documents provided by some of the employees at the time of hire contained suspect information. These documents are currently under review and the matter is being handled internally.

“It was also determined that Jackson Furniture Industries (JFI) had properly followed the lawful procedures of hiring and is not at fault.

“Jackson Furniture Industries is as determined as ever to remain a reliable and safe place of employment in Bradley County and the United States. We are proudly celebrating our 80th year in business and look forward to continued growth and hiring in the future.”

Neither the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office nor the Cleveland Police Department have been involved in the internal investigation, according to spokespersons for both law enforcement agencies.

I-9 inspections, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act, instituted in 1986, were enacted to require employers to “verify the identity of employment eligibility of their employees and created criminal and civil sanctions for employment-related violations.”

Bryan Cox, spokesman for ICE’s New Orleans Field Office, said today that random audits are performed at various companies to determine if proper documentation is in each employee’s file.

“We give a company three days’ notice to request files of their employees,” Cox said. “ICE looks for fraudulent documents such as Social Security numbers, and will inform the company of any suspect documents.”

He added, “The company’s human resources department will go to the employee who needs to get correct documentation and request additional documentation. Typically, folks who have inadequate documents will either provide more paperwork or leave their jobs with the company.”

According to Cox, employees fill out applications and provide Social Security information and other documentation for employers.

“ICE will audit companies to make sure identity theft is not occurring. Random audits are performed on companies on a regular basis,” Cox said.

ICE’s I-9 Inspection Overview states that ICE considers five factors: the size of the business, good faith effort to comply, seriousness of violation, whether the violation involved unauthorized workers and history of previous violations.

According to the ICE website, “The process of audit inspection includes a copy of the payroll, list of current employees and the company’s business license and incorporation articles. Employers are required by law to maintain for inspection original Forms I-9 for all current employees. In the case of former employees, retention of Forms I-9 are required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire, or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer.”

Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ violations range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties, at the higher end. Penalties for substantive violations, which includes failing to produce a Form I-9, range from $110 to $1,100 per violation.

Jackson Furniture has several plants which manufactures sofas, recliners and other home furnishings. The company began business in 1933.