Federal Immigration Legislation Could Have Costly Consequences for Employers

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Recent federal crackdowns on illegal workers have resulted in serious criminal action against companies and executives and the proposed legislation carries even harsher penalties - nearly all the legislation pending in Congress will increase the burden of employment verification for employers.

Proposed immigration reform legislation making its way through Congress could have some costly ramifications for U.S. employers, especially those in states with large numbers of illegal residents.

"Nearly all the legislation pending in Congress will increase the burden of employment verification for employers," says attorney Ashley Kaplan, head of the labor law research team at Sunrise-based G.Neil Corp.

"Recent federal crackdowns on illegal workers have resulted in serious criminal action against companies and executives," she continued, "and the proposed legislation carries even harsher penalties, so smart employers should start taking corrective measures now."

Employers Have Been on the Front Lines for 20 Years

Current U.S. immigration law is based in large part, Kaplan noted, on 1986 legislation that requires companies to determine whether their employees are authorized to work in the United States. For all newly hired employees, employers must fill out a Form I-9, which indicates what documents the employees submitted to prove their work eligibility.

"The law basically requires employers to verify a worker’s identity and work eligibility. Most employees present a driver’s license and a Social Security card, both of which are readily available on the black market," she said. "But if employers attempt to ask a few questions beyond this documentation to verify eligibility, they could be sued for discrimination based on national origin."

"Legally, it’s a very thorny situation and, 20 years later, employers are still on the front lines of attempting to sort legal from illegal employees. If the federal government is having such a hard time with these issues, you can only imagine how difficult a task it is for private employers."

Strong Penalties for Hiring Illegal Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently said the federal government planned to "break the back" of businesses that hire undocumented aliens. Legislation pending in the House would fine employers up to $40,000 for such hiring’s, and a Senate proposal would impose fines of up to $20,000 and up to three years in prison for a violation.

An electronic verification program would be mandatory under both versions of the legislation, Kaplan said. The House bill requires employers to participate in three to six years; the Senate, in 18 months.

"In this climate, with people out in the streets protesting by the thousands and punitive legislation being seriously proposed, it is essential that employers stay informed and be extremely thorough with employment documentation," Kaplan advised.

Based in Sunrise, Fla., G.Neil provides a complete range of employment documentation products, including legally compliant job applications, Forms I-9 and W-4, and a detailed I-9 Recordkeeping Compliance Kit to help employers stay within the letter of the law. For more information or to request a catalog, call toll-free 1-800-999-9111 or visit http://www.gneil.com.

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Ashley Kaplan, Esq.
G.Neil
954-846-8899
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