Documents required upon hire

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Q: I recently verbally accepted a new job.  I received the offer letter.  It describes requiring some documentation on my first date of employment.  Can you explain why they need these documents?  And they recommend bringing a driver’s license and a Social Security card.  What if I don’t drive?

A: Congratulations on your new role!  It sounds like you might be referring to the I-9 form.  This form has been around since 1986.  In the US, every new employee hired by a company is required to complete the I-9 form.  The form crosses all industries and all company sizes.   In addition to completing the form, your new employer (or an authorized representative) must review and examine one or more documents within your first three days of employment.  The purpose of the form and the required document(s) is to establish that you are legally eligible to work in the US and also to verify your identity.

While a driver’s license and a Social Security card both satisfy the requirements of the I-9 form, employers cannot show a preference for which documents a new employee presents.  There are many different options which satisfy the I-9 “acceptable documents” requirement.  A US passport or US passport card, a permanent resident card, a school ID card, a birth certification, a Native American tribal document all are acceptable documents for some or all of the documents accepted.  Your new employer must physically examine the documents.  If they appear to be genuine, your new employer must accept them.  Expired documents are no longer acceptable for the purposes of completing the I-9 form.  Independent contractors are not required to complete an I-9 form.  Also, employers should be consistent in how they handle the I-9 form and the forms of ID presented.  As an example, if an employer photocopies the documents presented by one employee, they should photocopy the documents presented by all employees.

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day is celebrated the first Monday during the month of September in the US.  The first Labor Day in the US as was observed on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.  Although many of us celebrate the holiday with back-to-school shopping or a final day of toes in the sand, some don’t realize that in the late 1800s, many US workers were struggling in their workplaces.  Twelve-hour plus days, unsafe work environments and children working in factories were common.   Hopefully most of us have today off and will remember the contributions of workers in the US.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.