Atrium Confirms Hiring Illegal Workers; Will Pay DHS $2 Million

January 26th, 2012 | Category: Industry News

Atrium Companies, the owner of Houston-based Champion Window, confirmed the hiring of illegal aliens as concluded by a federal government investigation into the hiring practices of the company and its affiliated divisions and agreed to adhere to revised immigration compliance programs and pay $2 million as forfeited funds to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, along with Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston. For its part, the United States has agreed not to criminally prosecute the company, the announcement says.

According to the ICE announcement, Atrium received multiple notices from the Social Security Administration (SSA) known as “no-match letters,” which indicated employee names and Social Security numbers did not match SSA records. Reportedly, the companies failed to take corrective measures, resulting in the continued employment of the undocumented aliens. Champion derived at least $2 million in revenue from the sales of its products manufactured and services provided with the use of its predominantly illegal workforce from 2006 through 2010, according to ICE.

Likewise, the announcement notes that Champion engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring undocumented workers for years prior to its acquisition by Atrium Companies in June 2006. In fact, last fall Champion Windows  filed a petition and application for writ of attachment in the amount of $5 million and for Injunctive Relief in the Harris County (Texas) District Court against Ralph Zuckerberg, former president/CEO and Patrick M. Cahill, former CFO, alleging that they participated in wrongful hiring practices, while working at the company. According to the ICE announcement, an audit conducted by HSI in early 2011 revealed that about 269 of Champion’s 451-person workforce consisted of undocumented aliens; at the request of the government, all of the undocumented aliens were terminated from Champion by the end of April 2011.

The ICE HSI investigation also revealed that, since acquiring Champion, management at Atrium had become aware of the possibility of large numbers of undocumented aliens being employed at Champion’s Houston factory. A follow-up audit conducted by ICE HSI of Atrium Companies’ remaining 12 subsidiaries in May 2011 revealed that about 8.3 percent of the parent company’s 3,382 employees (excluding Champion employees) were undocumented aliens. All of these workers were terminated within a matter of weeks, states the ICE announcement.

The ICE announcement reported that since December 2010, Atrium Companies has taken substantial remedial measures to ensure compliance with immigration law in its hiring process, including revising its immigration compliance procedures to include new policies concerning the proper completion, retention and auditing of I-9 forms and for responding to SSA no match letters. Under the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, Atrium Continues must also hire a full-time chief compliance officer and must also continue to consult with immigration counsel in order to ensure the legality of its workforce.

According to a statement issued by the Atrium Companies, for more than a year it has been cooperating in the investigation, which led to the termination of any company employee who was not authorized to work in the United States. The investigation involved an audit of personnel records across all 14 Atrium-owned business units located throughout the United States.

“We are pleased that this investigation has been fully resolved to the government’s satisfaction and each employee now holds proper work authorizations,” says Kevin P. O’Meara, chairman and CEO of Atrium. “Every employee at each Atrium division is fully documented, and our policies assure that this status will be maintained going forward. Atrium remains a strong and important presence in the residential housing industry, and we are especially grateful for the support and patience shown by our customers, suppliers and employees during this time. ”

The case was handled by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Kebharu H. Smith and David Searle, Southern District of Texas.

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