Businesses operating and hiring employees in the U.S. are required to ensure that they are hiring employees who can work legally in the country. In order to help businesses ensure that the employees they hire are legally allowed to work in the country, the government encourages employers to use the E-verify program. The verification of an employee’s employment status through the government’s E-verify program has been voluntary to employers, except for certain employers who work on federal contracts, and employers in states that have laws requiring the use of E-verify.
Under a proposed law, the Legal Workforce Act, employers could be required to use a system modelled after the E-Verify program. The law would require the use of this program to be mandatory for all employers, and would be implemented in stages across the country. The law would preempt state law on this issue, and states would be required to comply with the law, or if they choose, they could enact stricter laws on employment verification.
The bill would require that employees who are not currently verified under the E-verify program to be reverified, which will require the employee to verify that he can work legally in the U.S., and for employers to certify that they verified an employee’s status.
If the bill is passed and signed into law, employers who use the system to verify their employees’ status will have a defense to allegations of improperly hiring employees who cannot work legally in the country. Therefore, if the system made an error and verified an employee who was not actually legally allowed to work in the country, the employer would not be liable for federal fines.
Employers with 10,000 or more employees would be required to use the new system within six months of the Legal Workforce Act becoming law, employers with 500 to 9,999 employees would have 12 months, employers with 20 to 499 employees would have 18 months, and employers with one to 19 employees would be required to comply with the law within 24 months. There will be different compliance dates for employers hiring agricultural workers.
There are also provisions in the law that seek to stop people from using other people’s social security numbers when applying for positions. These provisions are supposed to limit identity theft.
There have been proposals to make E-verify mandatory in the past, for example, the 2013 Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act proposed to make E-verify mandatory, but it did not make it to law. This time, there is a greater push for these changes, and the bill may have a better chance of becoming law.
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If you are an immigrant or foreign worker who needs to determine if you are working legally in the U.S., or who needs to adjust your status in order to work legally in the U.S., you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your status. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.