A bill was recently introduced to the Senate that would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers, which would be another step toward federally-required background verification for employers.
The legislation introduced in the Senate was similar to a bill proposed in the House of Representatives this year, although not in every way. The presence of the two bills, which would require hiring managers to utilize the background verification system, dovetails nicely with Republican presidential candidates' nearly uniform support for the program. One notable Senator, Rand Paul (R-KY), however, is opposed to making the system mandatory. With the idea of a federally required background check gaining steam, it would help employers to make an effort to better understand E-Verify.
"It would help employers to make an effort to understand E-Verify."
The most recent proposal to mandate E-Verify
The latest E-Verify proposal would permanently mandate all employers to begin using the verification program. Introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO), the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2015 would strengthen a number of rules pertaining to use of the employment eligibility verification system, according to a press release from the Senator's office. The legislation would, most importantly, permanently authorize the program and ensure that it is mandatory for all businesses. Requirements for use would be phased in, depending on the type of employer. Private companies would have up to one year to begin checking all new hires. Federal contractors would have to begin using E-Verify immediately while so-called "critical employers," as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, would have 30 days to implement the system.
Beyond making E-Verify mandatory for all employers, though, the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2015 would implement several other changes. For instance, under the proposed bill, penalties for illegally hiring undocumented employees would increase, and would require hiring managers to fire a staff member if E-Verify discovers that he or she is ineligible to work in the U.S.
The way in which E-Verify is used would also change under the parameters of the proposed legislation. For example, if the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2015 passes, employers will be allowed to use E-Verify before actually hiring an individual, a practice that is identified as pre-screening and currently unlawful. Additionally, businesses would have to check the status of all employees within three years of the legislation's enactment. These new requirements, in addition to others, would make E-Verify a much more prominent tool for hiring managers.
"With employers using the program on a voluntary basis, E-Verify has already proven its value in helping to enforce immigration laws by giving employers a tool to determine if individuals are eligible to work in the United States. And, if we can help stop employers from hiring people here illegally, we can help stem the flow of individuals crossing the border for jobs," the Iowa Senator explained. "E-Verify will safeguard opportunities for legal workers and give employers a reliable tool to have a legal workforce."
Rep. Lamar Smith introduced similar legislation
A bill similar to Sen. Grassley's was introduced within the House of Representatives not long ago. Sen. Grassley's proposal to make E-Verify mandatory is similar to legislation introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) earlier this year. Smith's proposal would require all employers in the U.S. to begin using E-Verify within three years, according to a press release from the representative's office. The legislation would also phase out the paper Form I-9 process and replace it with a completely digitized work eligibility verification process. Slightly different than Grassley's proposed law, Smith's would roll out E-Verify requirements based on company size, rather than type. Additionally, the Texas Republican's act would incentivize states to enforce hiring regulations by allowing them to keep fines collected from noncompliant businesses.
With both the House and the Senate considering legislation that would mandate E-Verify, and most of the field of Republican presidential candidates touting the system's usefulness, there's a good chance the background verification program will remain a topic of discussion for some time as its future is hashed out. It would be useful for hiring managers to learn how to navigate the system, as they may be required to use before long.