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Florida’s New Mandatory E-Verify Law

Florida has enacted a new law that makes the use of E-Verify mandatory for all government employers and certain private employers. This will require changes in employers’ hiring to some extent beginning January 1, 2021.

While E-Verify is a voluntary program to many, for more and more employers, it is becoming the not-so-voluntary system of choice.

On June 30, 2020, Florida joined the growing number of states to pass a version of a mandatory E-Verify statute. Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that will require all public employers, including local school districts, public universities, and colleges, and state and local agencies, as well as their private contractors, to use E-Verify, a federal electronic database intended to aid employers in confirming against federal databases that the documentation provided by new hires to establish lawful employment eligibility are in fact valid.

Campaign Promise; COVID-19

As a candidate in 2018, Governor DeSantis promised to mandate the use of E-Verify. This was controversial and opposed not only by some immigrant advocacy groups, but also by business groups — especially those in agriculture, construction, and hospitality.

A spokesperson for the Governor explained, “Given the high unemployment rate due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever to ensure that the state’s legal residents benefit from jobs that become available ….”

Key Provisions

Beginning January 1, 2021, every public employer, contractor, and subcontractor in Florida must enroll in and use the E-Verify system to confirm the eligibility of all new employees.

Additionally, no public contract can be entered into without an E-Verify certificate. Any subcontractor working on a public contract must provide the contractor with an affidavit (which must be retained by the contractor during the duration of the contract) stating that the subcontractor does not employ, contract with, or subcontract with unauthorized aliens. Contractors will need to go through this process for all public projects.

Private employers are not required to use the E-Verify system unless they have a contract with a public employer, or they apply for taxpayer-funded incentives through the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

All employers must still complete and maintain “I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification” forms for the duration of employment, and for at least one year from the date the employee is terminated or three years from hire, whichever is later under the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

In addition, under the new Florida law, any private employer who does not use E-Verify must also maintain copies of the documents used to complete the Form I-9 for three years (which is optional under federal law).

Next Steps for Employers

Florida public employers and those who bid on public contracts should be ready to comply with the new law by updating their onboarding and new hire practices.

Private employers who choose not to use E-Verify should continue to complete and maintain I-9 verification records, including copies of the documents that were reviewed. The enforcement procedures under the new E-Verify mandate are significant, and failure to comply with the law could result in suspension or termination of business licenses.

Moreover, additional government scrutiny at both state and federal levels of employment verification records is possible when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Employers should be prepared by periodically auditing their employment verification records to ensure they have been completed fully and properly. Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer your questions about state E-Verify requirements and to assist employers in setting up employment verification policies and conducting internal compliance audits.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume X, Number 188

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Joanne Lambert, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Employment Litigation Attorney
Principal

Joanne Braddock Lambert is a Principal in the Orlando, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing management in employment litigation before state and federal courts and administrative agencies, as well as counseling management regarding ongoing employment and labor matters.

Ms. Lambert is a frequent speaker on a variety of employment law topics and conducts compliance training for management on discrimination, harassment, and managing employee leaves of absence under the Family and Medical...

407-246-8447
Sean G. Hanagan, Jackson Lewis, business immigration lawyer, employment eligibility verification attorney
Principal

Sean G. Hanagan is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Working with human resources professionals and in-house counsel, he helps employers develop business solutions and policies for the hire and movement of international staff. Mr. Hanagan advises on I-9 employment eligibility verification, E-Verify and social security issues, and on best practices to avoid hiring-related discrimination. He defends companies subject to government audits and investigations, and guides employers through the process of securing employment visas for critical foreign staff. Mr. Hanagan speaks regularly before employer organizations and writes on workplace law subjects.

Practice Focus Areas

  • Assuring immigration benefits compliance by advising on DHS post-approval site visits and public access files for visa petitions, and training employers’ staff on proper records maintenance
  • Conducting I-9 internal audits and developing Social Security No-Match notification procedures and policies for employers
  • Creating and implementing employee I-9 verification procedures and programs that meet ICE and civil rights requirements
  • Representing employers under immigration investigations, civil I-9 audits, or who have been subject to ICE worksite operations
  • Negotiating with ICE on behalf of corporate clients to reduce or avoid costly fines and federal contract debarment
  • Conducting internal reviews of potential violations of employee verification policies and immigration laws, and formulating action plans to ensure legal compliance
  • Reviewing the verification processes of clients’ contractors and temporary worker providers
  • Developing employee recruiting and hiring strategies to minimize visa cap implications and maximize potential use of cap exemptions and alternative avenues to the H-1B category
  • Counseling employers on international transfers and travel strategies for executives, managers, engineers, scientists, chemists, athletes, and specialized and key employees, including advice regarding security issues that may affect entry to the United States
  • Preparing and filing temporary employment visa petitions, including among others E, I, J, H, L, O, P, R and TN visas
914-872-6879
Madonna M. Snowden Employment Lawyer Jackson Lewis Orlando
Associate

Madonna M. Snowden is an Associate in the Orlando, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She has experience representing employers against claims involving allegations of wage and hour violations, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and constructive discharge.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Ms. Snowden was an associate with a boutique labor and employment law firm representing management exclusively. While attending law school, Ms. Snowden served as Managing Editor of the Florida International Law Journal and Assistant...

407-246-8429