Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is E-Verify expansion on the horizon?

The House Judiciary Committee has passed the Legal Workforce Act, a bill to require businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to determine whether an employee is eligible to work in the United States.

The committee’s sign-off is the first step in a long process that would be required before the measure could become law.

E-Verify use is currently voluntary. About 500,000 employers use it, and 23 states have laws requiring some or all employers to use the system. The National Restaurant Association supports a federal law requiring businesses to use the system, to free them from the challenge of complying with different state and local laws requiring E-Verify.

“Uniformity and consistency are the keys to helping grow our workforce,” said Angelo Amador, the NRA’s senior vice president of labor and workforce policy and regulatory counsel. “Actions by 50 different states and numerous local governments in passing employment verification laws create an untenable system for employers and their prospective employees. A standardized E-Verify system would strike the right balance with the employer community and provide clarity and certainty in their hiring decisions.”

The NRA believes a national verification system is a key part of immigration reform but only if the system protects employers’ flexibility and limits liability. The Legal Workforce Act addresses some of those elements, including:

No cost to employers: E-Verify would continue to be available for employers at no charge under the Legal Workforce Act.

A reasonable time frame: The Legal Workforce Act would phase in a federal mandate according to a business’s size. Businesses with more than 10,000 employees would have six months to implement E-Verify after a law is enacted. Businesses with 500 to 9,999 employees would have a year to begin using E-Verify. Businesses with 20 to 499 employees would have 18 months, and all other businesses would have two years.

Legal protection for employers: Businesses that used E-Verify in good faith wouldn’t be prosecuted for errors in the system that happened through no fault of their own.

State law preemption: The Legal Workforce Act would prevent states from enacting their own laws requiring E-Verify.

It’s not clear when the Legal Workforce Act will go before the full House of Representatives for a vote, and the legislation would still require the approval of the Senate and President Obama to become law.

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