E-Verify requirement in effect for N.C. small businesses

Jul. 03, 2013 @ 06:14 PM

Starting Monday, smaller businesses were required to begin using the federal E-Verify online system to make sure new hires are legally allowed to work in the United States.

The requirement for businesses with between 25 and 100 employees was the last stage of a phased-in implementation of a state law passed in 2011. It went into effect in October for employers with 500 or more employees and in January for employers with between 100 and 500 workers.

According to the state law, employers have to verify that employees are allowed to work in the country using E-Verify, and to keep records of that. The law doesn’t apply to seasonal temporary workers employed for 90 or fewer days in a year.

E-Verify compares information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ required I-9 form that’s used to verify an employees’ identity with data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records, according to information on the immigration agency’s website.

Employers that violate the state law have to file a sworn affidavit stating they’ve required a work authorization through E-Verify, or pay penalty of $10,000. On the second violation, employers pay a $1,000 penalty. The penalty escalates to $2,000 per employee not verified for the third and subsequent violations.

Neal O’Briant, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Labor, said the department has received three complaints under the previous thresholds of the state law. All three investigations are still open. He said one investigation, which stems from a complaint in April, involves a Durham company.

Christie Burris, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, said the group has been working with its business members since the law first went into effect.

“So far, we have not had any complaints from our membership,” she said in an email.

John Goodman, director of governmental affairs for the N.C. Chamber, said businesses have been preparing for the law since it was passed,.

When it first passed, he said there was concern about the new process as well as questions about why it was needed, but he said that with the phase-in, most were comfortable with it, or at least understand what to do.

“I think that once they’ve had that opportunity, they’ve realized this isn’t as burdensome as they may have thought,” he said.

Kevin Rogers, public policy and public affairs director for Action NC, an advocacy group for low-to-moderate-income people that has an office in Durham, said the group was not in support of the law when it went into effect for big businesses.

Rogers cited concerns about false negatives in the E-Verify system preventing people who can work legally in the country from getting hired, particularly for Green Card holders who are permanent residents, but not citizens. He said there can be a lag before the information shows up in E-Verify.

“Big businesses that have the financial ability to deal with the system to re-run checks to get people through; we’re concerned small businesses (do) not have (that) ability,” he said.