Tennessee adds new E-Verify requirements for employee screening
Requiring employers to verify their teams are eligible to work in the U.S. is nothing new for Tennessee. The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act (TLEA) initiated this practice in 2011. However, an amendment will take effect in 2017 requiring companies with 50 or more workers to utilize an E-Verify system operated by the Department of Homeland Security.
Past practices for employee verification
According to the Tennessee state website, private companies with six or more workers must demonstrate they have a legal workforce, including employees who are contracted but paid by the employer. Currently, they have two ways to verify their compliance:
• Provide a document that ensures the employee's eligibility status: There are 11 documents total that qualify for this purpose, and they include drivers' licenses, birth certificates and passports.
• Use the E-Verify program: Tennessee employers can enroll workers in the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program by using the individual's name and social security number.
Starting next year, however, companies with 50 or more employees won't have this choice. Rather, an amendment to the TLEA will require them to use the e-verification program, according to JD Supra Business Advisor.
A closer look at Tennessee's new E-Verify amendment
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the E-Verify program provides a fast and accurate way to ensure employees are either U.S. citizens or have met the necessary requirements for employment eligibility. Essentially, the program functions by comparing a worker's Form I-9 and Employment Eligibility Verification to information in the system from varying government databases.
As JD Supra explained, companies face penalties if they do not enroll in this program by January 1 of next year. The first instance of noncompliance is met with fines unless the employer corrects the incident in 45 days. This timeline is cut from the TLEA's former grace period of 60 days. Specifically, initial violations call for a $500 overall fine in addition to $500 for each employee not enrolled. As the number of instances of noncompliance goes up, so do the fines. Because of this hefty financial toll, it is vital for businesses to ensure they are in compliance.
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