Proposed legislation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey would impose stricter work authorization verification requirements on employers.
House Bill 1502 would require all contractors and subcontractors on public works projects to verify the employment eligibility of new employees through E-Verify, the federal electronic employment verification system, and to verify existing employees’ Social Security numbers. In June 2010, this bill was referred to the House State Government Committee.
House Bill 1503 would require all construction industry employers to verify the employment eligibility of new employees through E-Verify and to verify existing employees’ Social Security numbers. This bill was passed by the House in June 2010 and is currently in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee.
Employers that in good faith rely on federal programs (E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service) to verify new employees’ legal work status and existing employees’ Social Security numbers will be immune from sanctions. However, employers face debarment from public work contracts (HB 1502) or license forfeiture (HB 1503) for noncompliance. Additionally, employers could face civil liability for retaliating against employees who complain about alleged violations or participate in investigations, hearing or inquiries concerning alleged violations.
New Jersey has also introduced two bills, Senate Bill 1842 and Assembly Bill 2600, which would prohibit the employment of unauthorized workers and require all employers who employ 100 or more employees to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees through E-Verify beginning January 1, 2011; compliance for smaller employers would begin on January 1, 2012.
In New Jersey, a rebuttable presumption that an employer did not intentionally or knowingly employ an unauthorized alien will exist if E-Verify was used for verification purposes. Violations can result in sanctions ranging from $100 to $1,000 and suspension and/or revocation of business licenses, depending on the severity of the offense. The New Jersey legislation, unlike the Pennsylvania bills, contains no retaliation provisions.
S1842 was introduced in May 2010 and referred to the Senate Labor Committee. A2600, also introduced in May 2010, was referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.
The New Jersey and the Pennsylvania proposals also contain enforcement mechanisms. Under the proposed measures, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey labor departments would conduct employer audits and investigate complaint-based allegations to ensure employer compliance. Given the current climate surrounding immigration, it is not surprising that both states have included audits as an enforcement tool. As we previously discussed on this blog, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement strategy is the employer audit and, thus far, federal agencies have doled out considerable fines for non-complying employers.