Who the hell am I?

I was at a dinner party the other night and because I was drinking, I can’t even remember how we got on the subject of writing. I must have mentioned writing something because the next thing I heard was, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” What? No. I mumbled something about Human Resources and waited for the subject to change.

That got me thinking about labels and presumptions. I sometimes run but I am not a runner. I have owned and ridden horses but I am not a rider. Some yoga poses help my back but I am not a yogi. I’ve been writing since elementary school but I am definitely not a writer.

As I prepared for my move to Mexico, I decided I wouldn’t even think about work until after the first of the year. However, my resume was updated within a couple days of *finally* having wifi. I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m kind of stressing about just exactly what I will do. Perhaps the most logical course of action would be to look for a remote Human Resources position or do some consulting. Accounting is always a good fallback since I’ve been doing that for decades. But really? It truly is as boring as it sounds.

I just happen to be surrounded by creative people. These are people who have identities. They have won awards. I am not one of them. I’m the person who makes sure everyone gets paid accurately and on time. I create budgets and forecasts. I’m the person who impatiently waits for the creative types to get their shit together. I am painfully aware of the difference.

Leaving the US was to some an enormous leap of faith. People think I’m batshit crazy but it still feels like the sane thing to do. Now I wonder if I have another seemingly unsafe choice to make. I’ve spent a lot of time defining who I am not. This may be my chance to finally decide who I am.

Tales from HR: I Am Not the One

We in Human Resources (and Payroll) spend our lives trying to comply with a fragillion federal, state, and local employment laws. (Thoughts and prayers for my colleagues in California.) We do our best to conduct business in a manner which prevents employees and applicants from needing to become familiar with these myriad laws. We also get annoyed when new legislation is drafted by people who know fuck-nothing about how things work in our area of expertise. (Arizona Prop 206, anyone?)

More than a decade ago, in a state far away, I had an applicant who came in to apply for a job and was obviously ineligible to work in the United States. Before you call me a racist, I’ll tell you how I knew: He presented a Social Security Card which had clearly been printed on a light card stock paper using an inkjet printer. When one of your essential job functions is handling original documents, you know by look and feel when someone gives you a poorly crafted fake.

The other suspicious part of this was that he presented his documents when he came in to fill out the application. I’m not sure who decided to start telling people in the country illegally that they should present their documents at the beginning of the hiring process because that’s terrible advice. USCIS considers that a discriminatory hiring practice so we only ask for the documents listed on Page 3 of the I-9 once a candidate has been hired. If you want to blend in, wait until you’re asked for your documents. #protip

Anyway, I let the applicant know that I knew he was presenting falsified documents and we couldn’t proceed with the process. I’m not sure why but I kept the copies one of the guys had made of the fake docs and I pinned them to the corkboard in my office after documenting my observations. I just had a feeling I would see this gentleman again.

Two weeks later, the same guy came back with a completely different identity. I walked out to the lobby to greet him carrying the copies of the documents he had brought with him previously. This time, instead of an Arizona DL he had a Kansas DL with a completely different name but the same exact photo. That was the point at which my intelligence was completely insulted and my patience was gone.

I showed him the copies of the documents he used two weeks prior and literally pointed at the door. It was this incident which prompted me to establish a voluntary memorandum of understanding with E-Verify. In the beginning, there were several tentative non-confirmations and people who then disappeared when they were unable to resolve the issues with the SSA. Within a couple months, however, those tentative non-confirmations dropped WAY off. It didn’t take long for the news of our E-Verify participation to make the rounds.

That’s why I get so irritated when people complain about E-Verify. It’s one government program that actually works, both in practice and as a deterrent. There is absolutely room for improvement and I would love to join a panel to make that happen. Wouldn’t it be a fun plot twist if subject matter experts could effect change?

Tales from HR: Identity Theft Whoopsie

The current partial federal government shutdown has made some non-Human Resources people think about subjects they normally take for granted. Paychecks, for example. How does your money make its way to your bank account accurately and on time every two weeks? Answer: Fucking magic. Not even kidding.

Beyond the actual federal payroll issue, I read some hyperbolic nonsense the other day about E-Verify being shut down. People were trying to say if employers can’t use E-Verify, then we’re just letting all these illegals on the payroll! No, E-Verify is only down temporarily and Arizona employers (mandatory E-Verify users) will just submit cases for all new hires once the system is available again. Any tentative non-confirmations will be dealt with at that time using the normal process. It’s a minor annoyance and nothing more.

That made me think about someone at a previous employer in another state who was in the US illegally and had stolen someone’s identity. He was an existing employee when I was hired and there was little I could do without losing my own job. What made the situation truly bizarre was he was paying child support to the State of Texas for someone else’s child via court mandated payroll deductions. I mean that’s an unlucky break, right? But it got crazier.

He was contributing to a 401(k) plan using this stolen social security number. Let that sink in for a moment. Can you imagine how funny (or sad, depending on your perspective) it would have been if the legitimate person had discovered the account and cashed it out? It wasn’t a paltry balance; he had been contributing to it for years. But wait, it got EVEN crazier.

The man decided at one point that he wanted to get legal so he went through the process. He was issued a legitimate social security number, which was obviously different from the one his employer had on file. My boss’s boss wanted me to just change his SSN in our system, like it was no big deal. It’s not really that simple so I tried to explain the I-9 handbook and the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding but it was no use. They thought I was exaggerating when I would say things like, “I am not going to jail for _____.”

The breaking point was when this boss instructed me to contact the bank administering the 401(k) plan to have them change the social security number on file for him. He didn’t want the guy to lose his money! Who the hell let him participate in a 401(k) under a false identity? Fortunately, the bank wasn’t having any part of it. Because they’re like, you know, smart and stuff.

I’d tell you the rest of the story but I don’t know what happened because I left. My guess is they terminated the false identity and had the guy withdraw his full balance under the old SSN and pay the early withdrawal penalty. They could then re-hire him under his legal identity and then do things properly from that point forward.

I guess the lesson here is if you’re going to steal someone’s identity, you either do the bare minimum or you fully commit. This isn’t a scenario in which you can just half-ass it.

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