Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has recently signed a bill (formerly Senate Bill 637) into law called The Public Works Employment Verification Act. Beginning on January 1, 2013, the state of Pennsylvania will require public works* contractors and subcontractors to enroll and participate in the federal E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system. This internet-based system will confirm the legal work authorization status of newly hired employees by comparing information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. Verification of existing employees is not required by law, and employers conducting the verification of new employees with E-Verify shall not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, color or national origin.
As a precondition to being awarded a contract for a public work, a public works contractor and its subcontractor will be required to provide the contracting agency with a Verification Form before the execution of the contract. The form will include certification that verifies the employer’s compliance with the E-Verify requirement. Also, contracts between a public works contractor and its subcontractors shall contain information regarding the requirements of the act.
Employers that fail to comply with the E-Verify requirement by January 1, 2013 may be subject to the following sanctions:
- First Offense: Violator will receive a warning letter detailing the violation that shall be posted on the Department of General Services of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania internet website.
- Second Offense: Violator shall be debarred from public work for 30 days.
- Third Offense (and subsequent violations): Violator shall be debarred from public work, ranging from no less than 180 days and not more than one year.
- Willful violators may be debarred for up to three years
In addition to the sanctions described above, a willful submission of a false certification may subject the employer to a civil penalty ranging from $250 to $1,000 for each violation. The new law also contains protections for whistleblowers and a “Good Faith” defense clause. The whistleblower protections make it unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against an employee because the employee participates in an investigation or makes a complaint about a violation of this law. As for the “Good Faith” defense clause, employers that take adverse action against a newly hired employee in reliance of an E-Verify determination that the individual is not authorized for employment will not be subject to any liability based on the good-faith adverse action.
For the full text of The Public Works Employment Verification Act, click here.
*”Public work” is defined under Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 as follows: Construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration and/or repair work other than maintenance work, done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of funds of a public body where the estimated cost of the total project is in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), but shall not include work performed under a rehabilitation or manpower training program.