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Tennessee makes effort to curb illegal immigration

State adopts law that requires employers to e-verify employees.

Tennessee has joined the movement to curtail the flight of illegal immigrants by passing its own employment eligibility verification law, according to a document released by Jackson Lewis LLP.

The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act (SB 1669, HB 1378), signed by Governor Bill Haslam on June 7, will require employers to use an E-verify program.

Employers will be required to enroll in the free federal program prior to hiring an employee to verify employees’ work authorization status, as well as maintain records of any results related to that employee.

As an alternative to using the verification system, employers may request and retain documents such as a valid Tennessee driver license or photo ID—or that of another state if the issuance requirements are as strict as Tennessee; an official birth certificate, or a U.S. government-issued certified birth certificate; a valid passport and other documents.

But, if an employer chooses to enroll in E-verify, it must use the program for all new-hires, regardless of if it chooses to obtain one of the approved documents.

Employers also must verify non-employees, such as outside contractors and laborers, and request and retain one of the documents listed above for verification.

There are consequences for violating the law, depending on if it’s a first or subsequent violation, and fines can range from $500 to $2,500. If a first violation is deemed to be made unknowingly, the employer will have 60 days to correct the issue before any further action is taken. However, if a final order is issued, the employer must pay all fines imposed and submit evidence of compliance within 60 days of the final order. Failure to do so may result in the employer’s business license being revoked.

Governmental entities and private employers with at least 500 employees must comply with the law beginning January 1, 2012.

Private employers with 200-499 employees must comply beginning July 1, 2012. Any employer with 5-199 employees must comply beginning January 1, 2013.

Shardae Smith

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