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National Restaurant Association - How to make national use of E-Verify work for restaurants

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How to make national use of E-Verify work for restaurants

The House of Representatives may be moving toward a vote on a bill that would require employers to use E-Verify, the national system that employers can use to verify whether employees are eligible to work in the United States.

A House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on the bill, the Legal Workforce Act, on Wednesday. Angelo Amador, NRA senior vice president and general counsel, was there to testify on behalf of the restaurant industry.

“The current federal employment verification system is clearly in need of an overhaul,” said Amador. “In the current system, employers are boxed in by federal regulations that, on one side, require them to conduct the I-9 process on every person they hire and, on the other side, limit their ability to question the validity of authorization and identity documents used during that process.” 

Replacing a patchwork

More than 500,000 businesses across the country use E-Verify, including many restaurants. While use of the system is voluntary under federal law, 23 states and a number of localities require some or all employers to use the system. That means employers that do business in different states have to comply with a patchwork of different state and local laws regarding E-Verify.

“This new patchwork of immigration enforcement laws exposes employers, who must deal with a broken legal structure, to unfair liability and the burden of numerous state and local laws,” Amador testified.

What should be included in a national E-Verify law

Nationwide implementation of E-Verify has been one of NRA’s top priorities in the debate over immigration reform.  But national implementation must include safeguards and modifications to protect employers’ flexibility and limit their liability. Here are five elements included in the Legal Workforce Act that the NRA believes are critical to making national use of E-Verify work for restaurants.

No additional costs to employers: E-Verify should be accessible and efficient for all employers. They should not be charged fees for using the system, and should not be required to retain any additional documents related to the hiring process.  

Flexibility for small businesses: Many restaurants don’t have human resource or legal staff to consult with when hiring, and some don’t have computers on site that can access E-Verify. A national E-Verify requirement should include an option for employers to verify eligibility by phone rather than limiting E-Verify use to the online system.

Fair enforcement:  Employers using the system in good faith should not be penalized by the government or held liable by employees for any information provided by E-Verify. The NRA supports giving employers 30 days to rectify any errors that result from using the system.

A reasonable implementation timeline:  While no business should be exempt from E-Verify, an extended phase-in period should be available to allow small businesses to incorporate E-Verify into their hiring process.

Verification of potential hires: Currently, employers aren’t permitted to check eligibility status in E-Verify until they’ve made an offer of employment. Allowing employers to check work eligibility during the hiring process and make hiring conditional on eligible status would be better for both employers and employees. Employers wouldn’t be left with the costs of hiring and training until they are certain an employee is eligible to work, and employees won’t be forced to interrupt their work to address the issue behind their non-confirmation.

Read the NRA’s statement on the importance of a national employment verification system.

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