A North Carolina law requiring the electronic verification of employees' legal standing to work in the United States has rolled out to private employers.
E-Verify is a free online system operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It serves as an additional verification to employers' standard I-9 obligations. All U.S. employers must complete and retain an I-9 form for each individual they hire in the U.S.
With E-Verify, information is checked against data contained in federal databases at Homeland Security and the Social Services Administration.
Since September 2009, all federal contractors and subcontractors who have been paid more than $3,000 in compensation have been required to use E-Verify to confirm that all new hires and all employees working directly on federal contracts are authorized to work.
The N.C. General Assembly passed in 2011 a law requiring cities, counties and private employers to use E-Verify with new hires. North Carolina is one of 20 states -- including every Southern state -- that requires the program.
N.C. private employers with more than 500 workers were mandated to comply with the law on Oct. 1.
Economists say the law will carry its most impact after Jan. 1, when employers with at least 100 workers are required to start complying. The compliance deadline for employers with at least 25 workers is July 1.
"I hear from small businesses every week who have been outbid by competitors employing illegals and who have tax, insurance and unemployment liens," said Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, a supporter of the legislation.
"They constantly undercut prices by not following the rules. This law will reward law-abiding companies for doing the right thing and punish the ones who aren't."
But employers cannot use E-Verify until an employee is hired.
If an employee is not confirmed by E-Verify, the employee has the right to challenge the determination, typically a 30-day window.
"A fair number of errors'
As each phase of the law goes into effect, the N.C. Labor Department can begin accepting complaints against employers who may have unauthorized workers on their staff. Employers failing to comply with the law face civil penalties of up to $10,000 and fines beginning at $1,000 for each employee without E-Verify work authorization.
Dolores Quesenberry, communications director for the state agency, said no complaints have been registered about large private employers not using E-Verify.
N.C. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce officials say the agency has conducted seminars with businesses on how to comply with E-Verify. They did not comment on whether E-Verify serves as a hiring deterrent.
The law has spurred little talk among the local business community because it hasn't affected the majority of businesses to date, said Gayle Anderson, chief executive and president of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
"Since not a lot of hiring is happening right now, most employers probably haven't focused on it yet," Anderson said. "I'm sure as the January and next July dates get closer, we will get some questions about it."
The hassle for employers is that they can't do E-Verify until the employee is hired, which can put the employers back where they started before the hire, some human-resources consultants have said.
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