A new law enacted in Pennsylvania on July 5, 2012 creates new employee verification requirements for all public works contracts.
On July 5, 2012, Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas Corbett signed the Public Works Employment Verification Act into law. Starting January 1, 2013 all contractors, subcontractors and staffing companies providing services on public works projects of more than $25,000 will be required to E-Verify their employees. Public works projects are those which involve construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration and/or repair and which are paid for in whole or in part from public funds.
E-verify in a free internet based system maintained and administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Employers must input employee personal information (such as date of birth and social security number) into the E-Verify system. The employee information is then compared to DHS and the Social Security Administration records to confirm employee eligibility. In a vast majority of the cases, confirmation of employee eligibility will be provided through the E-Verify system electronically within seconds. It is estimated that approximately two percent of submissions, however, may take two to four weeks for a response due to discrepancies in the data. Employers are not allowed to hire or take adverse employment actions against employees during this time period.
In Pennsylvania, once an employer has received confirmation of the employee’s eligibility through the E-Verify system, the employer must complete and sign, under penalty of perjury, an E-Verify usage certification form verifying that the employer has enrolled in the E-Verify system and has confirmed that all employees are eligible to work on the public works project. The certification form will be available online by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services before the end of this year.
An employer who fails to verify employment eligibility through E-Verify or fails to provide the verification form can be subject to a warning letter from DGS for a first violation and debarment from public works for subsequent violations. An employer can also be subject to civil penalties, ranging from $250 to $1,000 for each violation, for failing to use the verification form or for making false statements on the form.
Questions remain regarding DGS’s enforcement mechanisms and procedures. However, now is the time to prepare for the new E-Verify requirements. Employers should visit the E-Verify homepage at www.uscis.gov. There, employers can review the federally required Memorandum of Understanding and find links for free webinars on the E-Verify system.