By Todd South
Businesses with more than 100 employees that bid for job contracts with public entities in Georgia must now verify that their employees are legally in the United States.
“If they do any type of work with the county, those people have to show verification that their employees are legal,” said Whitfield County Human Resources Director Jackie Palacios. “That will be for anybody to bid or to be considered.”
She said the federal employment verification system, or E-Verify, maintains accountability for contractors and the public employers working with contractors on public projects of any type.
The rule is part of the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006, and it began by requiring contractors with more than 500 employees to register themselves with E-Verify last year.
On July 1, the law changed to apply to contractors with more than 100 workers, and next July 1 it will apply to any company — no matter how many employees — that wants to bid on public contracts.
Ms. Palacios said Whitfield County wasn’t really affected until this month when the law changed to the mid-size contractors.
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows employers to confirm the legal working status of new employees by checking a prospective worker’s Social Security number and other Form I-9 information.
E-Verify expanded to include naturalization information in May. The photo screening tool compares photos against a 14.8 million images on the Department of Homeland Security database.
But the biggest impact will be in 2009 because most of the companies the county works with will fall within the less- than-100-employee category, she said.
Until then, businesses that have less than 100 employees still must file an affidavit that their employees are legal to work in order to bid on public jobs, which holds the businesses liable if any information they provide is false.
Stan Griffin, a project manager with Smith & Green Construction Co. of Dalton, said he has yet to use E-Verify, but he welcomed the system of accountability.
“I’m all for anybody in this business having to verify,” Mr. Griffin said. “I would advocate that rule because we adhere to it anyway.”
Mr. Griffin said he works with men employed by Smith & Green who spent many years working to gain their U.S.. citizenship, and he feels it’s unfair to have to compete with businesses that hire illegal immigrants and underpay them.
Smith & Green, with about 25 employees, will come under the verification requirement next year when it bids on public works projects, but he said the firm has had to comply with previous worker certification requirements.
Mr. Griffin said that many years ago public entities began requiring contractors to show proof employees were legal for such jobs as electrical work, so the new legal status certification won’t be much different.
The E-Verify employment verification system is a free service provided by the federal government.
E-verify checks the information and documentation of citizenship or residency provided by the workers against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases.
According to the agencies’ Web sites, E-Verify evolved from the Basic Pilot/Employment Verification Program originally developed in 1997. The program gave employers Internet access in 2004, making it much more handy for them to use when hiring new workers.
The vast majority of prospective workers are confirmed in seconds, but about 5 percent are not confirmed. That can be because they are not authorized to work in the United States or because the applicant was not aware that he or she could appeal the initial response, according to the E-Verify Web site.
More than 64,000 employers participate in the program with 1,000 new employers each week. E-Verify has received more than 4 million queries since Oct. 1, 2007, according to the Web site.
E-mail Todd South at firstname.lastname@example.org