Pennsylvania Mandates use of E-Verify for State Public Works Contractors
The State of Pennsylvania recently passed Senate Bill 637. This law requires all Pennsylvania public works contractors and subcontractors to utilize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s E-verify program to ensure that an employee is authorized to work in the United States. Under the new law, before being awarded a public works contract, a contractor will be required to provide the public body/owner with a verification form acknowledging its responsibilities in relation to verification of employment eligibility through the E-Verify Program. Subcontractors on the project must provide a verification form prior to commencing work on the project. The definition of what constitutes public work under S.B. 637 is found in Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act:
"'Public work' means 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 the 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."
The law’s implementation date was January 1, 2013.
The federal E-verify program requires employers to verify the information provided by newly hired employees during the I-9 process against information contained in federal databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
Under S.B. 637, the Pennsylvania Department of General Services is required to create an E-Verify usage certification form—which all contractors, subcontractors and staffing companies providing services on public works projects will be required to sign under penalty of perjury—verifying that they have enrolled and are using the system for all new hires starting on January 1, 2013. Under the new law, providing a false certification is punished by a civil fine ranging from $250 to $1,000. S.B. 637 also penalizes employers for failing to enroll in E-Verify and for failing to use the system for each new employee after enrollment. The penalties for violators are as follows:
- First Offense: Warning to violator and posting on Pa.'s website
- Second Offense: 30-day debarment from state public works contracts
- Third Offense: 180 days or up to one year debarment from state public works contracts
- Willful violators may be debarred for up to three years.
Under the statute, a contractor may only be charged with one offense per contract, regardless of the number of employees the violator failed to process through the system. The statute also requires that each general contractor and subcontractor, no matter what its position in the contracting tier, sign its own certification—thereby making each independently liable and not responsible for the failure of any other contractor or subcontractor on a particular project.
For more information on the Senate Bill 637 and the E-verify system, visit www.uscis.gov/everify.