As of July 1, 2023, all private employers in Florida with 25 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify, the federal government’s database for verifying work authorization. Enforcement of this new E-Verify requirement will begin one year after enactment on July 1, 2024.
These employers also must:
- Certify E-Verify participation on the company’s first state tax service provider report each year; and
- Retain proof of the E-Verify verification for at least three years from the date of hire.
Employee leasing companies will be responsible for E-Verify verification, unless the responsibility is transferred to the client company by agreement.
Employers should expect random audits as well as enforcement based upon complaints. Initially employers will have 30 days to cure any noncompliance. Multiple violations within a 24-month period will lead to fines and suspensions.
E-Verify is not new to Florida employers. The Florida law in place since 2021 already required all private employers to use E-Verify or require documentation in accordance with Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, from new hires. Further, most public contractors were subject to E-Verify.
The new E-Verify law is part of a larger, sweeping immigration bill that, among other things:
- Invalidates out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to people without legal status in the United States;
- Requires certain hospitals to collect patient immigration status and provide quarterly reports; and
- Penalizes through business license suspensions and fines the employment of unauthorized workers. Enrollment in E-Verify, however, creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer has not violated the state law that prohibits the employment of unauthorized workers. Employers who use only the Form I-9 process can establish an affirmative defense to the same.
Private employers in Florida with 25 or more employees or those who plan to bid on public contracts should be prepared to comply with the new law by updating their onboarding and new hire practices and registering with E-Verify. It also will be important to train at least one staff member on how to use E-Verify if the employer has not used the system in the past.
Using E-Verify does not mean that employers do not have an obligation to complete I-9 forms for each new hire. Form I-9 employment eligibility verification is and continues to be an independent requirement under federal law.
Using E-Verify allows the Social Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to more easily audit a company’s data to determine if normal statistical parameters are met. But, one particular benefit of using E-Verify is that the employer can offer up to two years of STEM OPT to trainees. This can be quite beneficial to employers and foreign students, especially because H-1B visas can be hard to come by.
Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist employers in setting up appropriate employment verification policies, conducting internal compliance audits, and training staff.