Thursday, October 27, 2011

Governor signs bill ending mandated use of E-Verify for state and municipal projects

It's not often that California passes pro-employer legislation, but on October 9, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1236 into law, limiting the application of E-Verify in California by prohibiting municipalities from mandating use of E-Verify.

E-Verify is an online program run by the federal government that compares information from an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records. If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the United States. If it does not match, E-Verify alerts the employer and the employee must resolve the mismatch within eight working days from the referral date. As an employer, you must allow the employee to continue working while they resolve the problem - and don't assume that the mismatch automatically means the employee is not eligible to work in the US, because the system is reportedly full of errors (even USCIS agrees - read their own 2010 report on the program here). A story doing the rounds in the news media reports that a U.S. citizen and former captain in the U.S. Navy with 34 years of service and high security clearance was flagged by E-Verify as not eligible for employment, with the error taking him and his wife, an attorney, two months to fix.

AB 1236, known as the Employment Acceleration Act of 2011, prohibits state and local government agencies in California from mandating use of E-Verify. Over 15 municipalities had required companies doing business with them to use E-Verify, including Mission Viejo, Temecula, Murrieta, Riverside, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar (for contractors), Lancaster, Palmdale, San Clemente, Escondido, Menifee, Hemet, San Juan Capistrano, Hesperia, Norco, San Bernardino County, Rancho Santa Margarita, and Simi Valley. Locally, Santa Maria requires the use of E-Verify for City employees and was planning to expand the requirement to all companies doing business with the City, and Simi Valley has pledged that they will keep using the system, despite the new law, through January 1, 2011. Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo were also considering an E-Verify ordinance.

The move to end E-Verify mandates was widely supported, not as a commentary on illegal immigration but because the program is so inaccurate. Indeed, Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who authored the legislation, said "This bill will protect California's workers and businesses. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that the E-Verify system flags eligible U.S. workers as ineligible to work. In these tough economic times, the mandated use of this system would impose a major financial burden on businesses. We need to help businesses grow and protect American jobs, not impose job killing mandates."

Among the supporters of AB 1236 were the California Chamber of Commerce and California Farm Bureau Federation.

This information is provided as a service to my clients and the community, and it is not an advertisement for legal services. Nothing on this blog is intended to create an attorney client relationship or to provide legal advice, and every case is different - a phone call to me is always free.

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