Florida Passes E-Verify Law
On June 30, 2020, Florida joined the growing number of states that have passed mandatory E-Verify statutes. 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. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2021, giving employers time to change their hiring system, if necessary.
When Gov. DeSantis made enacting an E-Verify law a campaign promise in 2018, immigrant advocacy groups and certain industries were strongly opposed to the idea – namely agriculture, construction, and hospitality. However, come 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, and without it, no public contract can be made.
Furthermore, 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.
I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms must still be completed and retained 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).
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.