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Forum offers how-to information on safety, immigration measures

[caption id="attachment_18630" align="alignright" width="215" caption="Michael D. Lopez and Christopher A. Kerosky"][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- As many North Bay companies in the construction, agricultural, manufacturing and other industries hire an increasing number of Latin American immigrant workers, it’s imperative that these companies’ business owners, HR staff and supervisors understand and have clear communication with these employees on safety precautions, rules and procedures on the job.

Latinos are hard workers but tend to have frequent injuries. They take more risks on the job because safety has often never been a consideration in the Latin American companies where they previously worked.  Many times they don’t understand the American company’s safety procedures and policies.

Other actions they may take because of language and cultural differences may include not reporting incidents because they don’t want to rock the boat and lose their jobs.  Latinos may also indicate an understanding of safety procedures when they really don’t because of the language barrier.

To reduce the number of Latino worker injuries, retain good employees, prevent your workers’ comp costs from skyrocketing and be prepared for increasing government compliance regarding immigration laws, additional effort and time must be exerted with your Latino work force.

It is imperative that your Latino work force understand the company safety procedures and policies, usually in their own language; feel comfortable with the company culture; and understand the employee’s and employer’s rights and responsibilities as it relates to immigration compliance.

In fact, this past year we saw the Obama Administration make a number of important changes in immigration policies toward undocumented workers.

Audits Instead of Raids. The Obama Administration has stopped the frequent raids on workplaces carried out by ICE under President Bush.  Instead of raids, the Obama Administration has announced an aggressive new audit initiative, intended to address the employment of undocumented immigrants.

Focusing on the Employer rather than the Employee. The inspections reflect the Obama Administration’s increased focus on holding employers accountable for hiring practices that violate immigration laws. ICE issued new guidelines for more severe fines and criminal prosecution against employers found to violate these laws.  The directives instruct ICE field offices and agents to focus on employers and supervisors.

No-Match Letter Regulations Are Dropped. Perhaps most significantly, the Administration decided to drop its no-match letter regulations. The SSA’s no-match letters were sent to employers when the payroll information reported by them did not match the department’s information regarding a certain social security number.

eVerify Program Expanded. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it was expanding the eVerify program, an automated system for verifying a potential employees’ right to work. The program is now mandatory for all companies with federal government contracts.  Future expansion of the program is likely.

These steps by the Obama Administration are considered a compromise between the “get tough” approach of the previous administration toward undocumented immigrants, and the desire to enforce the law against employment of those without the legal right to work.

Understanding how these changes and others impact your workplace is critical to not just compliance with the law, but to building a strong and stable business.

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Michael Lopez is a vice president of Vantreo Insurance Brokerage. Mr. Lopez provides leading-edge risk reduction strategies for builders, developers and manufacturers seeking innovative commercial insurance solutions. His insurance expertise is based on more than 20 years in the industry and highlights in-depth knowledge of risk management and corporate leadership training. Mr. Lopez can be reached at 707-546-2300 ext. 237, mlopez@vantreo.com or www.vantreo.com.

Christopher A. Kerosky of the law firm of Kerosky & Associates has practiced law since 1984 and has been recognized as one of the top immigration lawyers for the last four years by San Francisco Magazine “Super Lawyers” edition.   He graduated from U.C. Berkeley Law School and was a former counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C.  He has had an office in San Francisco for 20 years but just opened a Santa Rosa office and lives in Sebastopol.  Mr. Kerosky can be reached at 707-433-2060 or www.youradvocate.net