After a long wait, E-Verify is coming to Pennsylvania. On July 5, 2012, Gov. Corbett signed into law the Public Works Employment Verification Act (S.B. 637) which takes effect January 1, 2013.
The Act requires all public works contractors and subcontractors in Pennsylvania to use E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of new employees and applies to projects with an estimated cost in excess of $25,000 that are funded by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions, authorities, or agencies. E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
Under the Act, a contractor must submit a verification form signed under penalty of perjury and acknowledging its compliance with the Act as a precondition of being awarded a public works contract. Subcontractors must submit the form prior to commencing work on the public works project. In addition, contractors must include in their subcontracts information about the requirements of the Act. The Department of General Services (DGS) will create the verification form and is also charged with enforcement of the Act through complaint-based as well as random audits.
A contractor or subcontractor violates the Act by failing either to use E-Verify or to provide the verification form. Sanctions for failure to use E-Verify range from a warning letter (to be posted on the DGS website) for a first violation to a one year debarment for a third and subsequent violation. A willful violation of the Act will result in a 3-year debarment. Civil penalties for failure to use the form or for false statements on the form range from $250 to $1,000 for each violation.
The Act provides significant protection for whistleblowers. If an employee of a contractor or subcontractor is retaliated against for instigating or cooperating in an investigation, the employee can bring suit (which must be brought within 180 days from the date the employee knew of the retaliation) to obtain reinstatement of employment and to collect three times lost wages, along with an award of attorney’s fees and costs.
A contractor or subcontractor who relies in good faith on E-Verify has immunity from sanctions and shall have no liability to any individual who is not hired or is discharged from employment. Good faith is shown by a federal agency’s written acknowledgment of the use of E-Verify. Contractors are not liable for violations by subcontractors.