Legislation which puts more teeth in Tennessee's E-Verify law to ensure that new hires are in the state legally is now on its way to the governor after unanimous approval in the House of Representatives Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), targets bad actors who find it more advantageous to pay a one-time $500 fine for hiring illegal aliens than to follow Tennessee's Lawful Employment Act passed in 2011.
"Over the summer, I got a progress report on the E-Verify law we passed in 2011," said Senator Tracy. "While the report showed the system is working, we saw there is room for improvements; particularly in dealing with bad actors that would rather pay a fine than follow the law we passed to ensure that companies are hiring legally eligible employees."
"We use E-Verify in our company and we have no problem with it," stated Representative Marsh. "It's both user-friendly and really quick. We're trying to make sure that all the employees that we hire in our businesses are legal citizens. That's the main concern."
Presently, all Tennessee employers with six or more employees must keep a copy of an employee's or new hire's driver's license or listed identity/employment authorization documents showing that he or she is in the U.S. legally. SB 1965/HB 1830 makes it mandatory for a company with 50 or more employees to use the E-Verify system beginning January 1, 2017.
E-Verify is an internet-based system operates by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by entering their name and social security number. It is free to employers in all 50 states, including Tennessee. The E-Verify system has a 97 percent accuracy rate.
The bill also strengthens penalties for companies who are knowingly discarding the E-Verify system. It creates an additional $500 civil penalty per day if the employer fails to use E-Verify or provide an affidavit of undue hardship.
In addition, the legislation shortens the number of days that an employer has to remedy a non-compliance finding after receipt of an initial order for violation of the state's E-Verify requirements from 60 to 45.
"This bill strengthens the law to stop the influx of illegal aliens who come here fraudulently for employment," Tracy concluded.
When signed by Governor Bill Haslam, the bill will take effect on July 1.