News & History
HR Backs Reliable Worker VerificationHR Groups Back Reliable Employment Verification System
By J.J. Smith
A House bill creating a new way for employers to check the work eligibility status of new hires has the support of a coalition of HR groups seeking a secure and reliable verification system.
The proposed New Employee Verification Act (H.R. 5515)—introduced Feb. 28, 2008, by House Social Security subcommittee ranking member Sam Johnson, R-Texas, and Reps. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Paul Ryan, R-Wis.—seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that an existing system, designed to locate non-child-support-paying parents, can be used to check the work eligibility status of new employees and thereby replace the E-Verify system the federal government provides.
“With authorization for E-Verify scheduled to expire at the end of 2008, now is the time for Congress to establish a more advanced, reliable and effective employment verification system,” said Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) president and CEO, at a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the bill. SHRM is the lead organization of the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce, the coalition advocating a new employment verification system, and some of the initiative’s members were prominent at the news conference.
“With this legislation, Congress now has a clear choice, enact a system that can end document fraud and illegal employment, or continue to fund the flawed E-Verify employment verification system,” she said.
The bill proposes linking a new employment eligibility program—the Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS)—to the existing National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), a central repository of employment data, unemployment insurance claimant data and quarterly wage data that is collected from state directories of new hires, state workforce agencies and federal agencies.
All employers are supposed to funnel new worker information to the NDNH system—which exists in every state—before the employee starts work, but only about 90 percent of employers are complying with NDNH requirements, Johnson said. “The remaining 10 percent need to get on the bandwagon, which is much better than trying to require the whole gamut of employers to get on a new system,” he said. There are 7 million employers in the United States, E-Verify has only 52,000 employers active on its roles, while NDNH has just over 6 million employers active on its rolls.
In addition, the bill would create the Secure Electronic Employment Verification System (SEEVS), which would establish a system for a new hire to undergo a standard background check to confirm identity, and then a “biometric” characteristic—such as a thumbprint—could be captured to further secure the employ’s identity.
SEEVS would make it much more difficult to beat the system while offering U.S. workers the ability to prevent their Social Security numbers from being misused by others, said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the American Council on International Personnel, which is also an initiative member.
However, while employers would have to comply with EEVS, the SEEVS program would be voluntary. By confirming the identity of a new hire through a biometric, SEEVS can provide employers with an additional level of security, Meisinger said. The employer would have to incur the expense of a biometric check, but it would give them greater confidence that they will not be raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she added.
The bill would designate the Social Security Administration as the primary agency to check the work eligibility status of U.S. citizens, Johnson said. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be the primary agency to check the work eligibility status of foreign workers, he said. While the bill establishes penalties for employers who fail to participate in the EEVS or SEEVS systems, it would protect employers from liability for employment-related action taken in response to employee information produced by the systems. That might entice more employers to use SEEVS, Meisinger said. In addition, the bill would:
• Require employees who are citizens or nationals to provide as identity documents a driver’s license, passport or state identification that contains the individual’s name, date of birth, photo, gender, address and security features.
• Require employees who are either a lawful alien resident or lawful alien worker to provide employers with an identity document that is issued by DHS and that contains an individual’s name, date of birth, address, photo and security features.
• Allow employers to attest electronically or telephonically that they have obtained and examined the required identity documentation.
• Establish that the New Employee Verification Act would have pre-emption over state laws and would protect employers and employees from state activity.
• Establish that nothing in the bill shall be construed as requiring a national identity card.
• Direct that an initial disapproval will become final if the employee does not contest the finding within 10 days, and require employment to be terminated within three days. In addition, it would require employment to be terminated within three days should a new hire contest an initial disapproval and the disapproval subsequently be upheld. The bill would allow an employer to dismiss an employee if the worker does not obtain approval within 20 days after being notified of an initial disapproval.
Prior to introducing the bill, its Republican supporters have been in discussions with Democrats, and bipartisan support is expected for the proposed legislation, Johnson said.
In addition, Ryan tells SHRM Online there have been discussions with the Bush administration. Because the bill “is a different approach to what they have proposed”—the administration wants to make EEVS mandatory—it is unknown if the White House will support the bill, he said.
J.J. Smith is manager of SHRM Online’s Global HR Focus Area.
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