Understanding Florida's New E-Verify Law: A Guide for Small Business Owners
This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on the implications of Florida's recently enacted employment law
Staying informed about employment laws is vital for small business owners and HR professionals to ensure compliance and protect their companies from legal issues. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on the implications of Florida's recently enacted employment law, which mandates the use of E-Verify for certain employers. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of the necessary actions and timelines to achieve compliance with this law.
- Overview of the New Law: Effective from July 1, 2023 forward, Florida has implemented a new employment law that requires certain employers to utilize E-Verify, an electronic employment eligibility verification system. This law applies to employers with 25 or more employees. Who is considered an “employee”? The new law tells us:
An “employee” means an individual filling a permanent position who performs labor or services under the control or direction of an employer that has the power or right to control and direct the employee in the material details of how the work is to be performed in exchange for salary, wages, or other remuneration. An individual hired for casual labor, as defined in s. 443.036, which is to be performed entirely within a private residence is not an employee of an occupant or owner of a private residence. An independent contractor, as defined in federal laws or regulations, hired to perform a specified portion of labor or services is not an employee.”
- Understanding E-Verify: E-Verify is an online system administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Its purpose is to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by cross-referencing their information with government databases.
- Compliance Deadlines: To comply with the new law, covered employers must commence using E-Verify for all newly hired employees beginning as of July 1, 2023. Existing employees are not required to undergo E-Verify verification unless they are assigned to a federal contract mandating such verification.
- Enrollment Process: Employers subject to the law must enroll in the E-Verify program. The enrollment process involves visiting the official E-Verify website (https://www.e-verify.gov) and following the provided step-by-step instructions. It is crucial to gather all necessary information and documentation before initiating the enrollment process.
- Verification Procedures: Once enrolled, employers must use E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of new hires within three (3) business days of their start date. Accurately enter the required employee information into the system and follow the instructions provided to complete the verification process.
- Employee Notifications: As part of the verification process, employers are required to inform new employees about the use of E-Verify and provide them with information regarding their rights and responsibilities. It is advisable to prominently display the required federal posters in a conspicuous location to fulfill this requirement.
- Non-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation: It is essential to understand that using E-Verify should not result in discriminatory practices or retaliation against employees. Employers must treat all employees fairly and consistently throughout the verification process, ensuring compliance with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. That means that all new employees should be run through the E-Verify process—regardless of their background or your pre-existing knowledge about their citizenship.
- Recordkeeping Requirements: Employers must maintain records of the verification process and associated documents for each verified employee. These records should be retained for at least three (3) years from the date of hire or one year after the employee's termination, whichever occurs later.
- Audits and Penalties: To ensure compliance, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) may conduct periodic audits of employers' E-Verify records. Non-compliance with the law may lead to penalties, including fines and potential business license revocation.
- Seek Legal Guidance: Given the intricacies of employment laws, it is advisable to seek guidance from an experienced employment attorney or HR professional to ensure full compliance with the new law. They can provide tailored advice based on your specific business needs and help address any concerns or questions you may have.
Understanding and adhering to Florida's new employment law that mandates the use of E-Verify is crucial for small business owners and HR professionals. By enrolling in the E-Verify program, following the verification procedures, and maintaining accurate records, you can achieve compliance and minimize potential legal risks. It is essential to treat all employees fairly and seek professional guidance when necessary to navigate the complexities of this new requirement. By doing so, you can confidently focus on running your business while ensuring compliance with Florida's employment laws.