The Story of an ICE Audit

Rubios store with webinar titleIn our webinar today, Angelica Gamble-Wong, SVP of HR for Rubio’s Restaurants, told the story of the recent ICE I-9 audit Rubio’s went through. Her talk was very informative. (You can watch the recording to hear the full story in Angelica’s own words). Here I will summarize some of the highlights for you.

Let me first say that supporting our customers through ICE I-9 audits is a very high priority for us at Tracker. We are extremely proud of the excellent outcomes we’ve helped Rubio’s and other customers achieve. The results of an ICE I-9 audit are the true measure of how well an electronic I-9 system is serving your business.

Now on to the Rubio’s story, starting with some history of the steps they took before ICE arrived.

Dog Digging a Hole

The paper I-9 process: “A hole we couldn’t get out of”

When Angelica joined Rubio’s, 350 managers in 200 locations processed 4,000 paper I-9s each year for new hires.

Angelica outlined the problems they had with paper I-9s:

  • New manager I-9 training did not “stick” (too much to cover, too much to retain)
  • Constant questions for HR, lots of errors
  • Needed HR to review each I-9, kick many back. Constant flow of I-9s back and forth
  • High labor cost, high level of frustration
  • Despite high effort, compliance levels were still low
  • Compliance was consistent w/ reported average for paper I-9s: >75% had errors

As Angelica described it, trying to achieve high compliance using paper I-9s was like being in “a hole we couldn’t get out of.”

“Something had to be done”

Cost+RiskRubio’s I-9 costs were way too high, and their risks were way too high. With paper I-9s, the only way to get their compliance levels up would have been to throw more people at the problem. According to Angelica, they would have had to hire multiple more people. With I-9 costs already too high, this was not feasible. So she set out to buy an electronic I-9 system for Rubio’s.

Rubio’s requirements for an electronic I-9 systemWhat Rubios Wanted

  • Managers easily get it right (“guided in the moment,” no questions, no confusion)
  • Training of new managers is minimal (little to cover, little to retain. A highly intuitive system should not require much training)
  • All field offices could be supported by a part-time corporate HR person
  • It could remediate their existing paper I-9s
  • It could integrate with their other systems (single sign on, data sharing)

“Tracker was the only system that met all our requirements”

What Rubios GotIn summary, Rubio’s was looking for a system that would give them very low labor levels and very high compliance levels. After evaluating multiple systems, Rubio’s chose Tracker as it was the only system that met all of their requirements. They now have 1/2 of an HR person fully supporting all their stores, with perfect I-9 compliance (more on their compliance levels in a minute…).

After they began using the Tracker system for new hire I-9 processing, Rubio’s also converted all their existing paper records into the Tracker I-9 system, and remediated the errors that the system identified in those records.

Then two ICE officers paid Rubio’s a visit

2 ICE officersNot too long after Rubio’s had successfully remediated all of their existing paper records, two ICE officers visited one of the Rubio’s stores. The officers asked for the store manager, and handed the manager a Notice of Inspection. Rubio’s had 3 days to prepare a package for ICE that included the I-9 records for all active employees at the store as well as the I-9s for all terminated employees whose records were still within the retention timeframe.

Three days later the ICE officers came back to pick up the records package from Rubio’s.

2 months later, ICE gave Rubio’s their audit results

0 Errors 0 Fines Two months later ICE contacted Rubio’s to say they had completed their audit of Rubio’s records. Their audit results: ICE found 0 errors, and assessed 0 fines. In addition, since it was apparent that Rubio’s takes hiring compliance very seriously, ICE said they would not expand the audit to other locations, but would contain the audit to the one store.

“What we did right”

… to prepare the records

Rubio’s had successfully prepared their I-9 records and operations before the ICE audit. Angelica attributes their perfect audit results to a few key activities:

  • Bought the right electronic I-9 system, ensuring all new I-9s are compliant
  • Converted old paper I-9s into system, remediated them
  • Added a note to any remediated records that could not be fully repaired
  • Started processing all new hires through E-Verify (which shows they do everything possible to ensure compliance, and also provides consistency across locations)

Angelica w quote

to prepare the organization

There are also a number of steps Rubio’s took to prepare the organization for an ICE audit, which contributed to the smooth audit process:

  • Updated their I-9 policy to outline what to do if an NOI is received
  • Trained everyone in advance how to respond

Policy for stores:

  • Get the store manager immediately
  • Let ICE know Rubio’s takes compliance seriously, has clean I-9 records
  • Contact corporate HR immediately
  • Never sign to waive the 3 days

Policy for HR:

  • Call meeting immediately with Tracker Audit Support Team, counsel
  • Ensure counsel serves as the single point of contact w/ICE
  • Coordinate other actions immediately. Define who/what/when for pulling other needed records (payroll etc)
  • Alert senior management

Business results

Angelica summed up the business results Rubio’s achieved by successfully creating a low-touch, high-compliance I-9 process:

  • Removed considerable business risk
  • Greatly reduced labor costs
  • Built trust with ICE
  • Empowered HR
  • Created a sense of partnership between HR and operations
  • Gave store managers more time to focus on creating a great customer experience
  • Gave the company a competitive advantage
  • Prepared Rubio’s to expand further

Our advice for all businesses, and especially those with multiple offices and significant hiring, is to follow the same steps that Rubio’s took. Then, when you get that audit notice from ICE, you’ll be able to anticipate a happy outcome.

Here are some additional resources that might help you along this path:

Rubio’s Restaurants will tell of their recent ICE I-9 audit: Webinar this Wed

Want to know what really happens in an ICE I-9 audit? Here is your chance. Come hear Angelica Gamble-Wong, SVP of HR for Rubio’s Restaurants, tell her story of the I-9 audit Rubio’s went through this year.

This free webinar is on Wed, Oct 15th at 10am Pacific | 1pm Eastern. You can register here.

Rubio’s hires more than 4,000 new employees each year across about 200 restaurant locations. They know the challenges of I-9 and E-Verify compliance.

Come hear Angelica tell her experience of Rubio’s ICE audit, how they prepared and how they fared.

You will learn:

  • What Rubio’s did to prepare in advance
  • Who from ICE came, what they presented
  • What helped to keep the audit contained
  • ICE’s amazing audit findings
  • Words of advice

Click here to register:

Webinar Registration 10-15-2014


See why Tracker made the Inc. 500

Inc 500 Medallion w Tracker4

Many of the nation’s largest employers use Tracker’s I-9 & E-Verify product across all of their locations.

Which is why Tracker just ranked #468 in the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies.

Want to see what all the buzz is about?

Want simple, flawless compliance?

Want to cut 85% of your labor cost?

If you hire over 1,000 new employees each year, Tracker’s I-9 & E-Verify product could save you significant labor costs and liability, and we invite you to get a private demo.

Other companies that gained early exposure on the Inc. 500 include Intuit, Zappos, Microsoft, Jamba Juice, Timberland, Clif Bar, Pandora, Patagonia, and Oracle. Tracker Corp placed 468th overall and 38th in the software category.

Tracker has been growing strong in many areas:

  • Companies with as many as 300,000 employees are using Tracker. Some have over 10,000 hiring managers all processing flawless I-9s with Tracker.
  • Employers with the highest-volume hiring in the nation use Tracker. Some process over 200,000 new hires every year with Tracker.
  • Employers cleansed over 1 million existing I-9 forms with Tracker’s remediation product in just the first 12 months after it was released.

We invite you to get a private demo

Discover how Tracker’s electronic I-9 solution delivers flawless I-9 compliance with just 15% of the labor. We invite you to get a private demo.

The ICE I-9 audit: If necessary, build your case for an extension (Step 3)

This is the third post in a series that outlines what to do as you race the 3-day clock after getting an I-9 audit notice from U.S Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

At this point you’ve carefully scoped the work (Step 1), and you’ve held your kickoff meetings (Step 2). Now you’re ready for Step 3, an optional but often critical step:

Your Case for an I-9 Audit Extension

Step 3: If necessary, build & present your case asking for more time

Given all the systems and people involved in an ICE I-9 audit, even in the best of circumstances it is often difficult in just 72 hours to pull together the information requested in a way that ensures quality. If you believe 72 hours is an insufficient amount of time, request an extension.

Any number of extenuating circumstances can jeopardize your ability to do a quality job on your audit response package in the time provided, including availability of key resources, timing that coincides with your busiest time of year or another large deadline-driven event (ex. annual enrollment), maintenance downtime of a key system, etc.

One of Tracker’s customers was served with an ICE I-9 audit notice during the third week of December, when several of their key resources were out on vacation. The company made the case that critical resources were unavailable, and got their deadline extended until after the holidays.

Another one of Tracker’s customers received multiple ICE I-9 audit notices on the same day for different worksites. If you have one of these or other extenuating circumstances, we recommend that you ask ICE for an extension. You want to get it right, which requires time.

Make your request for an extension early in the process, as soon as you have your arguments prepared. This shows that you immediately organized your efforts and sincerely want to do a quality job on your response package. Make sure to outline your reasons when you ask for the extension. Ask for as much time as you think you’ll need to do a quality job, while keeping your request within reason.

Finally, allow your attorney to present your case for an extension. As recommended in a previous post, your attorney should be your single point of contact with ICE. He or she can best represent your rights and is likely familiar with ICE’s I-9 audit process.

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This is the third of five posts outlining a series of specific actions you should take after  ICE hands you an I-9 audit notice. Check back for this upcoming post outlining the next step:

  • The ICE I-9 audit: Look for these I-9 errors (Step 4)

Tracker’s Audit Response Team guides customers through ICE I-9 audits. Employers who use Tracker’s electronic I-9 & E-Verify solution have been rewarded with perfect ICE audit results showing 0 errors.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only.

The ICE I-9 audit: Call kickoff meetings (Step 2)

This is the second post in a series that outlines specifically what to do as you race the 72-hour clock after you were handed an I-9 audit notice by a U.S Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) auditor.

Racing the clock w NOI-2

If you followed Step 1 outlined here, then as soon as the ICE auditor left the building, you went straight back to your desk and carefully reviewed the ICE paperwork for all locations being audited. Having done this, you know who you need to involve in your I-9 audit response, and what to ask of them.

You’re now ready for the next step:

Step 2: Call immediate kickoff meetings

Football kickoffIn this step you alert your stakeholders and pull together your audit response team.

Call the attorney who will be your central point of communication with ICE during the I-9 audit. Get him/her a copy of the ICE paperwork. Also contact each person you will need to pull records for you. Schedule one or two meetings to take place immediately:

Meeting #1:

This meeting includes each person who will be pulling records, along with your attorney. Here you will define the roles and responsibilities of each member of your I-9 audit response team, and define deliverables and timelines. Clarify which person will pull each set of records, and make sure there is agreement on the scope and format of the records being pulled. Establish a delivery timeframe for each task. If there are any extenuating circumstances that make fast turnaround difficult (for example, the person who knows the system best is out sick) do everything you can to help expedite the process despite the difficulty. At the same time, take a note of any difficulties as they may help you make a case with ICE for an extension.

Meeting #2:

If you use an electronic I-9 vendor who supports their customers through I-9 audits, you’ll also want to hold a call between your vendor, your counsel, and yourself (HR). In this meeting you want to make sure there is agreement on the scope and format of the records being pulled. Ensure that an audit trail will be supplied with each I-9, showing the changes made to the record over time. Make sure the vendor is also going to supply images of all the employment eligibility documents associated with each record. Discuss the format in which these items will be delivered to avoid any 11th hour surprises. Your attorney is a key stakeholder in this meeting as he or she needs to stand behind what is delivered while representing you with ICE.

Clarify the turnaround time for the vendor deliverables. A good I-9 vendor will have internal processes in place that enable them to immediately make your audit the highest priority. They should also give you a single point of contact for your audit. Make sure you know how to get hold of that person over the next three days. You also want to understand how the I-9 vendor will deliver the records to you. The vendor should provide a secure delivery method – not email – so make sure to get access instructions and login information.

There is another item you will likely need from your I-9 vendor. The Notice of Inspection will typically ask you to supply information about the electronic I-9 system you use, to ensure it meets the requirements for audit trails, electronic signatures and more. (see this example ICE I-9 audit notice for more detail). If your I-9 vendor has experience helping customers through ICE audits, they will have a standard response for this request, and it has already been vetted by ICE.

Also, if the ICE auditor requests it, be prepared to give ICE a demo of your electronic I-9 system to show how it is compliant. Your vendor should be prepared to support you through this. Demonstrating the system’s compliance should not be difficult. A well-designed, compliant system should be easy to demo.

For both of these meetings, the earlier you get the records, the more time you will have to identify issues and potentially take action to mitigate those issues. So do everything you can to help accelerate the delivery timeframe.

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This is the second of five posts outlining a series of specific actions you should take when you receive an I-9 audit notice from ICE. The next post in the series:

Tracker’s Audit Response Team guides customers through ICE I-9 audits. Employers who use Tracker’s electronic I-9 & E-Verify solution have been rewarded with perfect ICE audit results showing 0 errors.

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only.