By Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh/Berks)
A new law I authored, known as the Construction Industry Employee Verification Act, recently became law and will take effect next year. This law will require employers in the construction industry to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure their new hires do not include individuals not authorized to work in the United States.
Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous employers who hire individuals not authorized to work in the U.S. for their construction teams. These employers and their unfair business practices hurt workers by driving down wages, create an unlevel playing field for other employers to compete against, and deprive government of revenue that could be used to fund programs like unemployment compensation.
All employees still must fill out I-9 forms, which are required at the start of employment and capture the information that is then used in E-Verify, so no additional information collection is required. By entering information into E-Verify an employer can easily verify that the prospective employee is in fact authorized for employment. Without this step, someone could fill out the I-9 form with false information that could go undetected.
Construction employers who fail to use E-Verify when hiring new employees will have action taken against a company’s licenses that are required to do business (i.e. corporate charters, as well as any other business license). This will hold employers accountable for their hiring practices that take jobs away from legal citizens.
This legislation started from discussions with construction industry stakeholders who had concerns about the use of unauthorized employees. The bill that created this law was co-sponsored by Rep. John Galloway, a Democrat from Bucks County, who worked with me on this issue. We then held a House Labor & Industry Committee hearing and ultimately advanced this legislation.
Working together in a bipartisan fashion we were able to achieve the overarching goals of protecting wages and preserving jobs for people legally authorized to work in the U.S. All Republicans and over two-thirds of Democrats in the House and Senate voted in favor of the bill. Strong bipartisan support like this shows this is not a union or non-union issue, but one of fairness and looking to go after unscrupulous employers who are cheating the system.
While this new law makes the use of E-Verify mandatory only for construction industry employers because of the problems that were brought to our attention in that industry, I support the use of E-Verify for new hires in all industries. In fact, many employers in various industries in Pennsylvania already voluntarily utilize this system and 76% of people in a recent Pennsylvania survey responded that they support employers using E-Verify for new hires.
If you would like to learn more about E-Verify or use it for your business, you can visit e-verify.gov