Kim Coan is manager of account management, at Arcoro, an Human Resources solutions provider for the construction industry, as well as secretary of the Greater Des Moines, Iowa, chapter of the National Association of Women In Construction. Opinions are the author’s own.
Complying with construction industry regulations is vital to preserving your company’s reputation. The price for one mistake extends beyond fines, as reputational damage can cause you to lose potential bids, and compounded infractions can even cost you your license.
But, just like the construction industry, laws evolve constantly, challenging contractors to stay current and compliant. Florida’s new E-Verify law underscores the importance of tracking regulatory changes and adapting business practices to minimize risk.
Although it’s been in use since 1996, in May, the state’s legislature expanded the mandatory use of the web-based system to public and private employers with at least 25 employees. This change could result in major repercussions for the specialty trade industry, which currently ranks fourth among industries that most use E-Verify.
Administered by the Social Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the E-Verify system was designed to enhance the I-9 documentation system. The free online system cross-references I-9 information with SSA records and data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to ensure a worker’s eligibility.
Though not used in most states, it is considered a more precise way to ensure a documented workforce.
Some states use E-Verify for public work
|States that require most or all of employers to use E-Verify||Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.|
|States that require public employers or contractors with the state||Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.|
Some states like Indiana, Pennsylvania and Texas only require public employers or government contractors to use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of their employees. However, nine states, including Florida, require all or most employers to use the system.
Additional states could adopt or expand E-Verify rules in the near future, prompting many construction companies nationwide to prepare for its potential enactment in their area.
Should your state adopt use of the E-verify program, there are a few steps you can take to ensure you successfully implement and execute it.
Restructure your hiring process
If you are new to the E-Verify system, now is the time to update your employee handbook. Article II of the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding for Employers states that employers participating in the program must prominently display a Notice of Right to Work and information regarding their E-Verify participation to all prospective employees.
When using the online program, an employer can manually input the information into the E-Verify system and record resolved case numbers on their employee’s Form I-9. Even clerical mistakes can result in fines ranging from $272 to $2,701 per violation.
Leave a paper trail
Proper recordkeeping is integral to compliance. Under Florida’s expanded E-verify law, employers must keep digital or print copies of an applicant’s documentation. An automated system would securely store the information in an employee portal. If you opt for a manual process, however, consider how you’re keeping those sensitive records confidential. Building a framework that allows for secure recordkeeping will also be vital in the event of an audit.
USCIS performs desk reviews to determine whether E-Verify participants comply with the law. Companies enrolled in the program are required to cooperate with these desk reviews, as well as permitting government agencies to review I-9 forms and employment records or interview employees.
If an employer can prove they are complying with E-Verify in good faith, they will not be held accountable if one of their employees falsified their work eligibility documents.
What to do in the event of a mismatch
If the information in the SSA and DHS database matches a worker’s I-9, the employee is authorized to work.
If E-Verify cannot confirm the information your employee provided, the case may receive a Tentative Nonconfirmation (mismatch) result. Although mismatches can happen for a variety of reasons, the E-Verify user manual clearly states, “Employers may not terminate, suspend, delay training, withhold or lower pay or take any other adverse action against an employee because the employee received a mismatch, until the mismatch becomes a Final Nonconfirmation.”
This allows employees due process to resolve the mismatch and protects them against unlawful discrimination. If, however, the employee chooses not to act on the mismatch within the allotted time to resolve the matter, the employer can terminate employment with no civil or criminal liability, according to the E-Verify memorandum of understanding.
That said, terminating a worker too early in the E-Verify process before getting a result, or failing to comply with E-Verify program rules specific to your employee’s rights, could open you up to discrimination liability.
Staying abreast of changes
Before adopting the system, new users must familiarize themselves with the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding for Employers.
Furthermore, businesses should consider appointing one or more employer representatives who can complete E-Verify refresher training courses periodically to remain informed of any new user policies, train hiring managers on E-Verify compliance, and ensure the information your company provides E-Verify is current and accurate.
Your company’s ability to adapt to new legislation with innovative technology and effective processes will help you mitigate risk and streamline hiring. Simplifying onboarding is key to building a robust workforce and retaining talent, which every construction company can appreciate in today’s competitive labor market.