Atrium Fined for Hiring Illegal Workers

January 27, 2012

Atrium Cos., the owner of Houston-based Champion Window, has agreed to adhere to revised immigration compliance programs and to pay $2 million as forfeited funds to the Department of Homeland Security, according to the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, along with Robert Rutt, an ICE special agent in Houston, also note that the government has agreed not to criminally prosecute the company.

In making the Atrium announcement, government officials also reported that a similar agreement had been reached with Advanced Containment Systems Inc., a separate company not related to the window and door manufacturer.

"These non-prosecution agreements require each company to continue their substantial remedial measures to address past immigration violations, the payment of a significant penalty and the company's continued cooperation in an ongoing criminal investigation, while also taking into consideration the collateral consequences that a criminal prosecution would have on the company's ongoing business concerns," says Magidson.

"These forfeitures represent companies who failed to comply with our nation's labor laws," adds Rutt. "Employers who knowingly hire an illegal workforce contribute to illegal immigration and decrease lawful employment opportunities across the nation."

Both Champion and ACSI, which manufactures custom emergency response vehicles and trailers, received multiple notices from the Social Security Administration known as "no-match letters," which indicated employee names and Social Security numbers did not match SSA records, the government states. 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 prosecutors. The window manufacturer engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring undocumented workers for years prior to its acquisition by Atrium in June 2006. Champion managers ignored the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act by falsely attesting on I-9 forms that work authorization documents presented by new hires appeared genuine.

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 Atriums' 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, it is reported.

Since December 2010, the window and door maker 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, the government reports. Under the terms of the non-prosecution agreement, Atrium must 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.

Editor's note: Houston-based Champion Window operates several sales and distribution operations in Texas.  It is not affiliated with Cincinnati-based Champion Window Manufacturing & Supply, which operates factories in Ohio and Denver and showrooms in more than 30 states.