Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Far More Than The Daily Allowance of Irony

I've been hired on a temporary, part time basis as a research assistant in the law library and I had to go in and fill out all the paperwork to be placed on payroll. There was the usual W4 and I9, plus a University form for demographic information. The university form annoyed me because it required you to choose from limited lists of possibilities for each answer, and under "Race", it listed "White", "African-American", "Asian", "Native American" and "Hispanic". Nothing for those from the Middle East, nothing for those who are of mixed heritage, very rigid and out of date concept of race.

What really took the cake, however, was the I9. For those who don't know, the I9 is the form you fill out that proves you have the right to accept work. You have to present some sort of documentation along with it, proving that you are who you say you are and have the status you claim to have. There are two sets of documents. Those documents in Group A are sufficient on their own-- for example, your U.S. passport proves that you are a U.S. citizen and also has your picture in it, so it's good enough. The documents in Group B require two different documents to be presented-- for example, your Social Security card and your driver's license. One proves you have the right to work and one proves you are who you claim you are. At the top of the form in big, bold letters, it says:

Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) they will accept from an employee.

Now, I should have been prepared, really, but to be honest, I'd totally forgotten about the I9. so I didn't bring my documents with me.The secretary processing my forms asked me for my school ID and my Social Security card. Now, I don't carry my Social Security card and I wasn't entirely certain that I knew exactly where it is, so I asked if I could just bring my passport instead. The secretary very kindly said no, the University requires your ID and your Social Security card and won't accept any other documents.

I gaped at her for a moment and started to say "But it says right on the form..." and she gave me a funny little half smile that told me she was perfectly aware of how stupid this was, but also perfectly powerless to do anything about it, and said "Yes. I know."



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