In Tennessee, employers who once had a choice regarding whether to use E-Verify will have to start using the background verification program in 2017.
The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act was passed in 2011 and required many employers to begin using E-Verify. The Internet-based background check system uses photo identification and Social Security numbers to ensure employment eligibility. However, those of a certain size had a choice about using the program. Now, though, companies with 50 or more employees, just like smaller ones, will have to begin using E-Verify, according to JD Supra.
"Over the summer I got a progress report on the E-Verify law we passed in 2011," Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who co-sponsored the bill, stated in a press release. "While the report showed the system is working, we saw there is room for improvements, particularly in dealing with bad actors who would rather pay a fine than follow the law we passed to ensure that companies are hiring legally eligible employees."
Changes to the TLEA
Starting in 2017, employers with more than 50 staff members will have to use the background verification program to ensure they're hiring individuals eligible for employment. For now and since 2011, though, there has been a choice for many companies. Either employers could enroll in E-Verify or they could request that new hires provide a document off a list of 11 items, such as a birth certificate or driver's license. However, it is important to avoid requesting specific documents from employees. Any demand for a certain item could be construed as discriminatory.
However, starting January 2017, the choice between the list of 11 documents or E-Verify won't exist for any employer in Tennessee. Instead, every company in the state will be required to enroll in E-Verify and begin using it to check the employment eligibility of new hires. In addition, companies will be required to use the background check program for contractors and other non-employees. As long as the company is paying an individual for services, a case should be opened for that person in E-Verify. There are a number of penalties for employers that don't comply:
- 1st offense: $500 for the penalty, plus $500 for each individual not verified through the program.
- 2nd offense: $1,000 for the violation and $1,000 for each person without an E-Verify case.
- 3rd offense: $2,500 for the penalty, plus another $2,500 for each failure to open an E-Verify case.
A violation does not guarantee a fine as long as the employer works to remedy the violation in a timely manner. Companies have 45 days to open an E-Verify case.
TLEA gets 'teeth'
E-Verify works as a supplement to the Form I-9. The latter is a requirement for all U.S. employers, but E-Verify isn't required in all 50 states. Though there were already regulations pushing Tennessee companies to use the program, the recent update to the TLEA will "put more teeth" in the law, according to a press release. Employers in Tennessee should look into enrolling in E-Verify, as well as learning more about the program. There are various webinars, such as those offered by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, that teach participants about the background verification program.