Bill Would Provide New Employee Verification System
A bill introduced by Reps. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would create a new, mandatory employer verification system for all future employees received the endorsement of NAHB last week.
H.R. 5515, the New Employee Verification Act (NEVA), would require all U.S. employers to verify the work authorization of their future employees through a system operated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) via either an online program or telephone access to the verification system.
Under the bill, employers could not be prosecuted without the federal government proving that they “knew” that an employee was illegal.
Additionally, the legislation contains language long supported by NAHB that clarifies the relationship between an employer and the employees of its subcontractors. An employer cannot be held accountable for the work status of a subcontractor’s employees unless the employer “knew” that the subcontractor was using illegal labor.
Of particular interest to NAHB members and many state and local home builders associations is significant pre-emption language that would reinforce the federal government’s authority over immigration-related laws by invalidating all state and local laws that attempt to regulate or penalize employers in relation to the work authorization status of their employees, as well as all state and local laws that attempt to require employers to use the Basic Pilot/E-Verify program operated out of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The legislation would repeal the current Basic Pilot program in its entirety, replacing it with the program managed by the Social Security Administration.
Under the SSA program, an employer inputs the required information on a new employee, and SSA databases then send the employer an approval code indicating that the employee is authorized to work. SSA would be the only entity reviewing work authorization information on all U.S. citizens, and in a matter of seconds it would be able to verify the information provided against DHS’s database of workers holding valid work visas and of legal permanent residents.
Employees who receive a “tentative disapproval” notice indicating that there is a problem with their records would be given a full opportunity to contest the determination and fix any problems in their records. Under the system, an employer would be required to terminate any employee who, after a further review by the government, receives a “final disapproval” notice.
Additionally, employers would have liability protection from lawsuits by employees who are denied a job based on incorrect information in the government database.
The NEVA legislation comes at an important time, with Congress — particularly, the House of Representatives — poised to attempt to take up several different employer verification plans that raise concerns with NAHB and other employer groups. Many of these plans provide little federal pre-emption of state and local laws, no liability protection and no safe harbor language for the relationship with subcontractor employees.
By contrast, H.R. 5515 provides a fair and workable verification standard that reinforces the employer’s role in ensuring that their workers are legally authorized to work in the United States, while severely penalizing those employers who knowingly flaunt the law.
NAHB will continue to monitor the progress of the bill, which has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
To read the legislation, click here and enter H.R. 5515 in the box at the center of the page.
For more information, e-mail Jenna Hamilton at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8407.