Filling Out the I-9 – Back to Basics: HR-101

Where does the I-9 form fit in the HR Generalist responsibilities spectrum?

With visas being revoked by the Trump administration, it seems like a fitting time to talk about one of the most responsibilities an HR Generalist may have.

Every HR person has to start from somewhere so I will be writing a series on HR basics for people who are just getting into HR. Stay tuned for the rest of the series!

There’s been a lot of uproar over I-9s lately. AB-450 in California prevented employers from allowing ICE to enter workplace premises without a warrant.

California, in an effort to protect immigrants from being deported, enacted additional laws to protect immigrants.

The state of California is now being sued by Trump’s Justice Department for three sanctuary laws.

What is an I-9 and what does it have to do with HR?

An I-9 is a basic employment form that all employees have to fill out within 3 days of being hired at Company. HR is often the responbile department that has to complete the form.

For example, if an employee gets hired on Tuesday, then they have to have an I-9 filled out by Friday.

What if the employee is hired on Thursday?

If your employee is hired on Thursday and your business days are Monday through Friday, then you should have a form filled out by Tuesday.

Who requires the I-9?

The I-9 is a federal form that is required by the Department of Homeland Security.

My Managers Fill Out the I-9

That’s fine. But as part of the HR department, it’s your job to train your managers on how to fill out the I-9. I will be following with a post and screenshots on different items to look out for.

In the meantime, make sure that you’ve been completely trained so you know what to look out for.

Starting in a New HR Role

If you’re just starting in a new HR role, a good place to start is auditing your current I-9s that are already pre-existing.

When is an I-9 Audit Necessary?

An audit of I-9s is customarily required especially when you are entering a new role.

By doing an audit, you’re making sure one of most basic areas of HR is covered.

Fines for I-9 violations start at $375 and can go up to several thousands of dollars.

Although you can’t change how the I-9 forms were filled out before you arrived, you can show good faith that your company is trying to remain compliant

Things to Remember

If you have only 100 people or less, it is a good idea to do a full audit.

However, if you have more than 100 people, and you don’t have the manpower to do a full audit, it’s a good idea to do a spot check.

If you are doing a random audit, make sure that how you are doing the audit is truly random and not discriminatory.

An easy way to ensure randomness is to pull I-9s by random patterned number of employees (ex: every 12th employee). Do not just do an audit by name.

Where do you start?

Start by making sure that you have a separate pile of terminated employees and employees who are currently active.

  1. Focus on the active employees first. Since I had less than a hundred employees and my employees were already separated between active and non-active, I went through the binder with Post-its.
  2. Look at section 1 and make sure that it’s all filled out. If not, have the employee fill out the section they missed, sign and date their change.
  3. Look at section 2, if any changes in this section need to be made, cross out the incorrect portion and fix it. Make sure to initial and date your change.

What if Section 2 is Completely Blank?

Don’t panic, grab a current I-9, notify the employee and re-certify.

Let the employee know that you’re very sorry that the information was missed and proceed to fill in the new form.

Attach the new form to the old form and a note indicating why a new form was completed.

E-verify: Is it the Same as the I-9 Form?

E-verify is not a replacement for the I-9 form. Instead, it’s a separate system that verified directly with the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to make sure the data entered is correct.

E-verify has additional requirements and their own training program on their processes.


An I-9 audit can save you a lot of grief in the long run. And the sooner you start, the better!


But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl

5 Ways to Deal When Work is Tiring


Daylight Savings has wreaked havoc on my life, Monday was not an easy day so this post for the first time ever will be short and sweet.

I have never met an employee (including myself) who wants to go to work every day. There will always be days that are incredibly unproductive because let’s face it, there are times when people just don’t want to work.

How do you deal with the days that drag on forever?

  1. Work on something easier – I always have a giant pile of paperwork to file. If it’s been a hard day and you just can’t think anymore, work on something easy to handle where mistakes are less easily made
  2. Take a quick stroll – When the numbers start blurring together on payroll (something that has a deadline), walking away can help. After all, paying something for 80 hours vs 60 hours could be a huge difference. On items I have to work on, I’ll grab a coffee from my office or take a quick stroll around the block. The mental break ensures that I keep my concentration on the task at hand.
  3. Follow a guided meditation – great apps like Ringly and Fitbit all have guided meditations for breathing exercises. Or take 10 minutes out and do a guided breathing exercise on YouTube. This will reset your focus and help calm a runaway mind bringing the focus back to finish what you need to do.
  4. Snack – sometimes your body just literally needs energy. Nuts or yogurt raisins are great snacks that can boost brain power when you get the afternoon exhaustion. Using your brain to think deeply uses a lot of energy
  5. Talk to someone – if you’ve been stuck on the same problem or task for a while, poking a neighboring co-worker for a second look can help. The second pair of eyes will help you with fresh ideas or confirm that you’re doing everything correctly.

As always there are days when we won’t want to work or go to work. Whoever said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” was definitely lying. After all, it’s still work!

But, there are definitely things you can do until you are motivated again!

But what do I know? I’m…

~ Just the Exhausted HR Girl

5 Signs Your Boss is Crazy, Not You


Happy Monday! Dreading going into work this morning! Thinking about quitting? Had it with your job?

Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s your boss.

I’m hoping the banana gave you some comfort at least.

Tons of people decide to quit for reasons that have nothing to do with a Devil Wears Prada-esque boss. However, in some cases where your boss is the source of significant conflict over time, it’s a sign to move on. How can you tell if your stress is a sign it is time to move on?

It is never easy to move on. Adapting to change is difficult and people are programmed to crave stability. There is comfort in the familiar. So, how do you know when you need to make a break for it?

Before we point fingers, let’s take an internal look at ourselves as employees.

  1. Are you meeting the expectations of your job?
  2. Are you putting in the effort to try and do well, going above and beyond just what your job description requires of you?
  3. Before automatically blaming your boss for everything, as tempting as that may be, take a good solid look at your own performance and work ethic. —

You’re the best employee in the world, move mountains, work extra long hours, and make your boss look great?

Good. Let’s talk about your boss and point those fingers

It’s time to move on when:

1. Your boss does not respect boundaries.

When we talk about respecting boundaries, we are talking the whole gamut of boundaries.

This could mean sexual harassment for example if your boss is touching your boobs, that is not okay!  If your boss is asking you as an employee to do illegal things and you go along with it you could become an accomplice. Call your HR dept and/or a lawyer right away.

Or this could mean calls every weekend to finish the last minute project. An occasional project on the weekend is normal. But if they are calling you every Holiday/family vacation, having you pick up their dry-cleaning, go grocery shopping for them and wash their dog (and you are not a personal assistant) then you might have boundary issues.

A great working relationship is built on trust and setting boundaries. If your boss is having trouble with boundaries repeatedly, you must address the issue openly and firmly.

Once that’s been done and nothing has changed then it is time to move on.

2. Your boss is unreasonable.

Okay, so your boss maybe doesn’t agree with some of the things you believe are important. That’s part of being an adult employee, you won’t always agree with your boss. However, if your boss is clearly displaying an unreasonable attitude time and time again and can’t be persuaded to take any other view. You might have a problem.

An example of this would be someone who has always used paper to do accounting or prefers paper/binders to using any type of cloud storage. As an employee, I would start by understanding your boss’s point of view. Maybe there’s a precedent of why they do things that way.

If even after reasoning and logically pointing out the better method, then it’s time to move on. Try another way of explaining, come up with a better plan, or compromising (half paper and half cloud?). If after trying all that, and your boss still disagrees, it’s possible that they may never be persuaded by reason.

Another example would be if you discovered how you were doing things was against the law. Bring this to your boss’s attention. If they refuse to start doing it the right way, don’t just sweep it under the rug. It may be time to bring it to your boss’s boss.

Great bosses will usually be willing to take at least some inkling of feedback from their employees. If you consistently find yourself in a position where your boss is unwilling to listen, it could be time reevaluate your position.

3. Your boss is abusive (verbally, physically, emotionally).

People get very shocked when they find out it is possible to have a verbally, physically or emotionally abusive relationship with your boss.

Physical abuse is easy to detect. At your place of employment, you should never expect any form of corporal punishment including but not limited to scratching, hitting, kicking, or have things thrown at you. Any type of this behavior should immediately be reported to HR.

Emotional and verbal abuse is a lot harder to detect and prove. However, if your boss tells you that you’re not performing up to expectations, this is not verbal abuse. If they are constantly belittling you, speaking down to you in a nonconstructive manner, yelling or screaming at you, you could be in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship.

What do you do if your boss screams at you? Don’t overreact or antagonize your boss, stay calm and say “If you cannot discuss this in a professional matter right now, perhaps we can address it later?”

If this is a constant problem, it is time to report the bad manager to HR. HR not doing the trick, try going to your boss’s boss.

4. Your boss is not mentoring you anymore.

A good boss should serve as a guide and mentor, they should teach and help you do your job better and provide you with the resources to get better. Although not having a boss who is a mentor is not a reason to quit immediately. It’s possible especially in a young career that not having a guiding hand could impact what you do in your next job or role.

If your boss isn’t capable or is unwilling, see if they would be open to introducing you to people who can and will. Or see if you are able to seek a mentor outside of your work to help guide you.

The following scenarios may be scenarios where you may start to think about switching jobs to gain the mentorship you need:

  • Your boss shows extreme favoritism impeding your career.
  • Your boss consistently steals credit for your work.
  • Your boss will not allow you to take on different projects.
  • Your boss is checked out and doesn’t show any interest in what you are doing.

Not having a mentor at work is definitely not the worst thing on this list but the long-term effects could be critical. You need a boss who will help guide you to learn more and improve while keeping you from making the big mistakes. You don’t always have to like your boss (who does?) or even agree with them all the time, but you do have to respect them and learn from them.

5. You are consistently having disagreements with your boss.

Having disagreements with your boss about how things are done is normal but ultimately what they decide goes. If you are consistently having arguments with your boss about different things then maybe there’s a fundamental difference in how you approach your work. After a time, this type of conflict can become draining and exhausting and it may be a good time to start thinking about moving on.

One disagreement or two that can be solved in a constructive way is normal. Having constant disagreements week after week could be a problem.

So, what now?

If you are experiencing all of the above symptoms, you’ve been diagnosed with a crazy boss but that’s not the end of the world. If you think you can deal with a little crazy try some of the techniques mentioned here.

However, if you see a repeat of some or all of these behaviors it’s definitely time to think about your own sanity and move on.

But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl


International Women’s Day


It’s International Women’s Day and I’m definitely hearing about it. It’s all over Twitter, McDonald’s flipped their logo upside down, and the #MeToo #TimesUp movement continues to take over news feeds.

My first encounter with the Woman’s Movement began in Community College with Professor Cynthia Lee Katona (one of the best professors I ever had), who taught a Woman in Literature class. Although she failed me in her English 101 class in my first semester of college, I was fascinated by her stance on women empowerment. She traveled extensively and established the Women’s Studies program at my school.

She taught me originally that the first women’s movement actually began as women trying to fight for equal voting rights, a right to have a voice. However, she also criticized that the newer generations of self-declared feminists have gone too extreme and lost sight of what the original movement meant.

I’m not going to comment on what I believe, what I believe is a half-conceptualized idea that tells me that I don’t know enough to create an opinion yet. But, I do believe in women’s rights and celebrating how far we’ve come. I can hold a job, vote, and I am much further along than my ancestors were.

And slowly but surely there’s a continued renewal of dialogue about women’s rights, about women’s choices, and just about women in general. I think that’s an amazing accomplishment and that it should be celebrated!

So for all of the strong women out there, please celebrate your differences, support each other and continue speaking up. I believe that to have this dialogue and being open will make the world a better place for my daughters and granddaughters in the future.

Fun Fact: Did you know that women are born with all the eggs they will ever need? What this means ladies, is that when your mother was a fetus, one of the eggs that was developed, while your grandmother was pregnant, is you!

Take the challenge, make the world a better place and rise up from the failures of yesteryear. I think twenty years from now, there will be a better world for everyone.

But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl

Imposter Syndrome at Work – Overcoming Fear

Mockup computer laptop on wooden table

In psychology, there’s a syndrome called Imposter Syndrome and it’s characterized by fear and self-doubt. Lately, I have been having a very personal relationship with feeling like a fraud and a lot of it comes from being afraid that I don’t know what I don’t know. And it’s a fear that is shared by many job seekers or career focused individuals.

At any given moment, HR has multiple laws that affect the practice and business. It starts at the Federal level where major laws are passed (these change rarely but every time there’s a change, it takes years to interpret the change), then you can California, the most “special” HR state laws, and just to make life more complicated, at the City-level we have San Francisco ordinances. Keeping up with the changes that are consistently coming out is like going to school for 4 years for computer science only to graduate to realize what you learned in school is obsolete.

That fear, prevents employees from achieving their full potential, from speaking up in a meeting, and from being willing to admit there are just things that they know.

How it Affects Blogging

When I first started this blog, I treated it as something that needed articles that needed the most accurate information every moment. Am I able to deliver on that promise? Probably not… I’m still early on in my career, about 7 years in. There will always and forever be things that I don’t know. And I think that’s the beauty of being where I am, I can finally admit that I don’t know something. So instead of fearing that there’s something I don’t know, I can finally admit that I don’t know it and go looking for answers.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned this past year, starting a new position is there are a million things I don’t know. Which HR person of seven years knows straight off the bat, all the IRS definitions of fringe benefits? Nobody (and please don’t tell me if you do, it will just make me feel bad). IRS and taxes are primarily a Finance issue with a little bit of crossover into HR. In small companies though, there is definitely overlap especially if you are wearing multiple hats.

Feeling Like an Imposter Too?

So, what do you do if you feel like you are dealing with imposter syndrome?

The first step is to identify if there are areas of weakness where you are not completely informed.

For example, if you’re working in HR and you feel like you don’t know all of the 2018 laws that were passed, do a quick scan of online blogs and resources to see if any of the information sounds familiar. And if you identify that there’s an area you’re weak in, go to a conference, take a class, read a book on the subject, or seek guidance from a professional.

After identifying the weakness, seek more information, there is a wealth of information out there that is available for HR professionals.

Feel like you’re missing some crucial information about benefits? Ask a fellow HR professional, attend a conference/workshop, or consult an insurance broker.

Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and say, “I don’t know this, but I will figure it out”

Pitfalls to Avoid

Guessing the Answer – One of the things I’ve learned early on (especially working in insurance), is if you don’t know something, don’t pretend you have the answer. Say you don’t know, and then go look for the answer. Giving your boss the wrong information could be worse than saying “I don’t know, let me go find out.” And if you give someone the wrong information, it reflects badly on you as a professional and it weakens their trust that you’ll provide the correct answer next time.

It Wasn’t Me Syndrome – Made a mistake, be like the Robinsons and “Keep Moving Foward” because everyone makes a mistake. Own your mistake and take steps to rectify the situation, then make sure that the same mistake never happens again. A lot of new professionals are scared to make mistakes. Don’t be! Make the mistake but learn from it.

Never Asking for Help/Feedback – Sometimes the project is too large in scope. Get feedback on it. Sometimes people who are viewing it from a different perspective will be able to provide a different view of why things should be done a certain way. For example, if you’re implementing a leave policy, why not talk to someone who’s gone on leave to see what information they felt was lacking. Incorporate that feedback will make your leave policies that much more helpful for the employee.

My Mistake

I’ve been captivated by a million things every day of what I could do, should do, and how a blog should be written. I think it’s time to put that aside and actually start writing and I’m hoping that all of you (my dear readers) will help educate me on my mistakes along the way. Here’s to overcoming imposter syndrome!

But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl