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How the New Florida E-Verify Law Impacts Construction Companies

On May 10, Governor Ron DeSantis signed E-Verify, an online tool run by the US Department of Homeland Security, into Florida Law. With the implementation of this statute, the penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal labor have increased. All Florida firms with 25 or more workers must use the E-Verify program and complete Form I-9 during employee onboarding. All recruits must complete the E-Verify procedure during the first three days of employment, starting on July 1, 2023.

Employers who have completed Form I-9 can electronically check each new hire's eligibility for work using E-Verify. To review records and identities, the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security can check the data provided during the E-Verify procedure. According to the new rule, counties and municipalities are not allowed to give funds to anyone who issues identification documents to someone who cannot prove that they are legally present in the country.

Employers who are required to use E-Verify must additionally attest on their annual tax returns that they comply with this requirement when making contributions or reimbursements from the state's unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance systems. According to federal laws, before opening a case in the E-Verify system, all employers must complete and keep a Form I-9, which verifies the identification and employment authorization paperwork.

Small firms can continue to use Form I-9 to confirm employee eligibility if they have 24 or fewer employees. They can use E-Verify, which offers heightened immunity protections. Annual certifications can be submitted by employers who voluntarily use E-Verify for documentation needs.

Additionally, employers need to be aware of the following duties and penalties:

  • Records must be kept for at least three years or one year after employment ends. All supporting documents also should be maintained
  • Employers using the E-Verify system create a rebuttable inference that they did not intend to hire an illegal worker
  • Annual certification is required. When contributing to or reimbursing the state's unemployment compensation or reemployment aid system, each employer that uses the E-Verify system must attest compliance on its initial return
  • If someone hires, recruits, or refers someone not legally allowed to work for private or public employment, they could face penalties from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). These fines start to apply on July 1, 2024
  • A daily penalty of $1,000 is possible if the DEO concludes that an employer fails to use the E-Verify system thrice in 24 months
  • Repayment of any economic development incentive could be required
  • The employer could be placed on a 12-month probationary period, and a quarterly compliance report from the firm to the DEO should be brought
  • For those who break the law within 24 months of a prior violation, any licenses issued by a licensing organization under Chapter 120 of the Florida Statutes may be revoked or suspended

This mandate only applies to new employees, it should not be applied to past hires or existing employees.

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