Pocatello-area employers have been urged to learn Spanish if they want to get along in the modern world of federal regulations covering workers.
The Idaho Human Rights Commission sponsored a weekend workshop recently that drew about 40 area employers. It came after a survey in August indicated more than 90 percent of Idaho employers aren't meeting a key requirement of a 1986 federal law on non-resident workers.The commission said it appears Idaho employers appear to favor certain documents over others when trying to document alien workers.
Richard Mabbutt, a consultant for the commission, said employers must gather information for people seeking jobs in a uniform and non-discriminating manner.
A form from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, I-9, must be filled out properly, Mabbutt said.
Failure to complete the I-9 forms, or even to properly duplicate the form on both sides, Mabbutt said, can leave employers open to possible discrimination claims. Penalties can be civil, criminal or both, and can range from simple warnings to fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars or jail.
One audience member said it's hard to get forms printed in English properly filled out by job applicants who speak only Spanish.
"If you want to live and work in the 21st century, learn another language," he said.
Mabbutt said the ability to "function globally" will be a key to success in the coming years. Of all Idaho industries, agriculture has had to make the most progress in that area, he said.
Asked why the I-9 was not printed in two languages, Mabbutt said that would be incorrectly "assuming functional literacy" because literacy isn't a requirement for some jobs.
"The United States now accepts more new immigrants per year than any nation in the world," Mabbutt said.