E-Verify offenders receive a break in South Carolina

The Greenville News reports that 16 businesses have been cited for violations under South Carolina’s E-Verify law, but almost all have been waived under the law’s provision for first-time offenders. As previously reported, the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act requires employers with 100 employees or more to participate in E-Verify or only hire employees who possess or qualify for a South Carolina driver’s license (or other state license with similarly strict requirements). The law will expand to include all South Carolina employers in July 2010.

According to yesterday’s article, the SC Department of Labor has been checking up on organizations since July, citing approximately 16 businesses out of 600. The violations spotted are across the map: ranging from a company not having any verification system at all, to not verifying all of the new hires in the required time period, to accepting non-approved documents as proof of employment eligibility.

The citations totaled more than $60,000 in penalties, almost all of which were waived. Lawmakers predict that the state will eventually collect sufficient funds for enforcement from repeat offenders and other willful violators.

E-Verify law tough on South Carolina Employers

According to a recent article in the Beaufort Gazette, many employers in South Carolina are struggling to comply with the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act, finding the requirements both time-consuming and costly. Under the current law, all South Carolina employers with 100 employees or more must either participate in E-Verify or only hire employees who possess or qualify for a South Carolina driver’s license (or other state license with similarly strict requirements). The law will expand to include all employers in July 2010.

The Costs: A restaurant owner estimates he’ll need an office worker to devote three hours per week overseeing the E-Verify issue, which could cost him $5,000 to $6,000 per year. He recently spent $500 training a new employee on the law, only to see that person leave.

The Confusion: state law and federal guidelines don’t always mix well. In this case, the state law says that employers can either use E-Verify OR demand that new hires possess a South Carolina (or similarly strict) driver’s license. The problem is that many employers think they can go back and forth between these methods, whereas the E-Verify MOU dictates that once you start using E-Verify at a particular site, you must use it for all new hires at that site. There are also differing time deadlines: the state law gives employers 5 days, whereas E-Verify requires verification to be initiated within 3 days.

The Consequences: according to the article, state auditors have been visiting employers in South Carolina unannounced and asking for documents that are not covered under the law. This practice is compounded by certain local ordinances which allow county officials to conduct random I-9 audits and impose significant penalties including the loss of an employer’s business license.

State E-Verify Provisions Going into Effect on July 1

On July 1, 2009, several state E-Verify mandates will go into effect, affecting employers in Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah. Most of these laws were enacted some time ago, and are being implemented in stages as indicated below. Here is a quick summary of these new state requirements as of July 1, 2009:

Georgia: all state contractors and subcontractors must use E-Verify if the contract is for the physical performance of services within the state of Georgia. Previously, only state contractors with 100 or more employees were impacted. More information can be found here.

Mississippi: all employers with 100 employees or more must participate in E-Verify. This law will expand to include employers with 30 or more employees in July 2010 and all employers in July 2011. The full text of the law can be found here.

South Carolina: all employers with 100 employees or more must either participate in E-Verify or only hire employees who possess or qualify for a South Carolina driver’s license (or other state license with similarly strict requirements). This law will expand to include all employers in July 2010. More information is available through this link.

Utah: state contractors and subcontractors must use E-Verify or the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) if the contract is for the physical performance of services within the state of Utah. The full text of the law can be found here.