The state of Florida is preparing to make some significant changes to employment practices that contractors need to be aware of. The changes in question are the addition of the “Verification of Employment Eligibility” statues requiring the use of the federal E-Verify system before hiring any new employees. The law goes into effect for both public and private employers in 2021.
Florida E-Verify requirements
E-Verify is a federal government online system that confirms information provided on I-9 employment forms and work eligibility with the US Department of Homeland Security, and the Social Security Administration. There are currently at least 22 states that require E-Verify in some capacity. And it seems to be a growing trend, see Pennsylvania Construction Industry Employee Verification Act: What Contractors Need to Know.
Currently in Florida, E-Verify is required on all state projects pursuant to Executive Order 11-02; which was signed back in 2011. However, yesterday Governor Ron Desantis signed Florida Senate Bill 664, which will add new statutes under Fla. Stat. §448.095. This will require all employers within the state to use the E-Verify platform. In the southeastern US, Florida will now join 6 other states that require E-Verify in both the public and private sectors.
E-Verify on public projects in Florida
As mentioned above, this has already been a requirement for state projects pursuant to the 2011 Executive Order, but now there will be statutory backing for this requirement come July 1, 2020. This passage of this new law will now apply to all “public employers” as of January 1, 2020. This covers state, regional, county, local or municipal governments; including public schools, community colleges, and universities.
Once in effect, no public contract can be entered into without a certificate from E-Verify. Any contractor who hires a sub must require an affidavit stating that they don’t employ, contract with, or subcontract with any unauthorized immigrants. That affidavit should be kept by the contractor for the duration of the contract.
If a hiring party has a good faith belief that these requirements have been knowingly violated, they can terminate the contract without liability for breach of contract. Furthermore, if a public employer has a good faith belief that sub has violated the E-Verify requirements but the contractor has, they can demand that the contractor terminate the sub.
Those terminated for violations of these provisions can challenge the termination in court within 20 days of the date of termination. If found guilty, the contractor will be barred from public contracting for at least a year after termination and may be held liable for any additional costs associated with the termination.
E-Verify on private projects in Florida
The E-Verify requirements will go into effect for the private sector on January 1, 2021. This will not apply to any employees that were hired before then. However, any existing employment contracts that need to be renewed or extended after that date will be required to go through the verification process without going through the E-Verify process.
Private employers cannot offer an employment contract without obtaining an E-Verify certificate. Once completed, the employer must retain a copy of the certificate or any other related documents for at least 3 years after the initial date of employment. If requested by certain parties (state attorney, Attorney General, Department of Law Enforcement, etc.) the employer must provide them with proof of the employee’s eligibility.
If accused of non-compliance, the employer must provide an affidavit that the employee was terminated, and a statement that they will comply with the requirements from then on. If this affidavit isn’t provided within 30 days of the request, any existing licenses will be suspended until it is. If an employer is found in violation of these requirements at least 3 times in any 36-month period, those licenses will be revoked; and may be liable for additional civil or criminal liabilities for hiring and/or employing an unauthorized alien.
Be sure you are ready for compliance
Once the ball drops at the end of 2020, all Florida contractors need to be ready. Any and all new employees will need to be run through E-Verify. Failure to comply can seriously impact your ability to do business within the state. Head over to the E-Verify Enrollment page and get your account set up as soon as you can.