Stein Eriksen loses dozens of employees after ICE audit
Stein Ericksen Lodge, which now uses E-Verify, was picked at random by immigration officials.
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One of Park City's largest employers, the Stein Eriksen Lodge, recently lost about 10 percent of its workforce of more than 580 after a federal audit found those employees were ineligible to work in the United States.

The audit, conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, was random and the luxury hotel was given three days' notice before the action. The audit was completed April 3, hotel spokeswoman Sara Myers said Wednesday.

"It's very clerical," Myers said. "We are regularly audited on the accounting side. There were no agents or guards or trucks. It's all paperwork."

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said her agency doesn't comment on specific cases.

"The goal of these audits is to ensure employers are following the law," Kice said. "In fact, the audits often show that businesses are in compliance, or, that they are able to correct any deficiencies without ICE seeking criminal or civil penalties."

Myers said the hotel, the fifth-largest employer in Park City, had never been audited by ICE in its 30-year history.

But she said the five-star hotel recently took the step to begin using the federal government's electronic verification program, E-Verify. She said any of the workers who were let go through the "voluntary separation" would have to go through the verification system to retain their jobs.

She said only "a handful" came back with proper documentation and were allowed to continue working after passing through E-Verify. She said all future hires will have to pass E-Verify.

Utah law requires employers with 15 or more employees to participate in E-Verify — a measure signed by Gov. Gary Herbert two years ago. But the law has no penalties for non-compliance. Earlier this year, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, introduced a tougher E-Verify law, but it died in the Legislature without a public hearing.

Myers said the audit didn't result in any disruption of service, because the resort's total employee pool tends to fluctuate through seasons. She said April was a time when seasonal help would've been shifted to other properties or let go until needed again.

Under ICE audit rules, a business has 10 days to come into compliance with the findings. Penalties can range between $375 per violation to $16,000 per violation — with the steeper fines coming from repeat offenders.

Myers said the hotel wasn't fined by ICE.

"We are in compliance," she said.

The resort has 180 rooms, 68 of which are suites, and recently went through a $7.5 million renovation of a five-star spa facility for guests. It sits on more than 10.8 acres at Deer Valley Resort's Silver Lake Village.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero