Legislation to enforce the construction industry’s use of the federal government’s E-Verify system has passed the Pennsylvania State Senate. This legislation, Senate Bill 1147, would make changes to the state’s Public Works Employment Verification Act to increase sanctions for those who fail to use the E-Verify system and make additional changes to improve compliance.
The E-Verify system is a web-based program maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The system determines the eligibility of new hires to work in the U.S., used in conjunction with the Form I-9 to confirm the employment eligibility of both U.S. and foreign citizens.
The Pennsylvania Public Works Employment Verification Act requires all construction contractors working on public contracts and their subcontractors to use E-Verify on all new hires. However, some have argued that the law’s current enforcement mechanisms are too weak to ensure compliance. Because of these concerns, Senate Bill 1147 will increase the severity of sanctions for non-compliance.
In an earlier announcement regarding the passage of the Bill through Senate committees, Senator Robinson stated, “Companies with strong business ethics should have every opportunity to participate in public construction jobs. Enforcing the E-Verify system ensures contractor employees are eligible and authorized to work in the United States, resulting in better business practices. Senate Bill 1147 will create a fairer construction industry, and I am proud to sponsor it with Sen. Gebhard.”
Senate Bill 1147 would also encourage further compliance by increasing the financial penalties for violations of the Act’s requirements. The current penalty for non-compliance rests between $250 and $1,000; however, under this bill, the fine would increase to between $2,500 and $25,000. It would also make additional changes to streamline enforcement of this law by requiring covered contractors and subcontractors to be enrolled in the E-Verify program upfront, making it a punishable violation to fail to do so.
According to an announcement from the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Robinson, “The current penalty is so small that it’s not a deterrent for companies that aren’t motivated to follow the law on their own. Unfortunately, until it starts to hurt their business, the illegal practice will continue. That’s why our bill is so important; it would finally add some teeth to the law,”
Now that it has passed the State Senate, it will go to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Compliance with Form I-9 and E-Verify requirements can prove challenging for many employers due to the complex and ever-shifting conditions. One of the best ways to ensure that your business remains compliant is to invest in an electronic I-9 management system. Electronic systems can help ensure that you stay updated with the latest regulations and complete the employment eligibility verification process every time.
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