BILL ANALYSIS Ó SENATE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS Senator Tony Mendoza, Chair 2015 - 2016 Regular Bill No: AB 622 Hearing Date: June 24, 2015 ----------------------------------------------------------------- |Author: |Roger Hernández | |-----------+-----------------------------------------------------| |Version: |June 18, 2015 | ----------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------------- |Urgency: |No |Fiscal: |Yes | ----------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------------- |Consultant:|Alma Perez-Schwab | | | | ----------------------------------------------------------------- Subject: Employment: E-Verify system: unlawful business practices. KEY ISSUES Should the Legislature prohibit an employer, or other person or entity, from using the E-Verify electronic employment verification system to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or applicant at a time or in a manner inconsistent with federal law? Should an employer who violates these provisions be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for each unlawful use of E-Verify, in addition to any other remedies available in law? ANALYSIS Under existing law, it is illegal for a person or other entity to "knowingly" hire, recruit, or refer for employment an unauthorized individual or any individual without complying with specified employment verification procedures. Among other things, the law requires employers to verify that every new hire is either a U.S. citizen or authorized to work in the United States by completing form I-9, Employment Eligibility AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 2 of ? Verification, upon hire and submitting necessary documentation for verification. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which required the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), to initiate employment verification pilot programs. Under federal law , the E-Verify Program (previously known as the Basic Pilot Program) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), implements the employment verification mandate under the IIRIRA. The E-Verify Program is an internet-based system operated by the USCIS in partnership with the SSA. The E-Verify Program enables participating employers to use the program, on a voluntary basis, to verify that the employees they hire are authorized to work in the United States. In addition, employers are required by federal law to have new employees complete form I-9 prior to submitting an E-Verify inquiry. Both state and federal law contains various provisions prohibiting employment discrimination on different bases, including, but not limited to, the race, color, sex, religion, or marital status of a person. In addition, existing federal law pertaining to E-Verify specifies, among others, that: § Employers may not use E-Verify to discriminate against any job applicant or new hire on the basis of his/her national origin, citizenship, or immigration status; § Employers may not use the system to pre-screen applicants for employment; § Employers may not verify newly hired employees selectively; and § Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee based upon E-Verify unless the program issues a Final Non-confirmation. Under existing California law , all protections, rights, and remedies available under state law, except any reinstatement remedy prohibited by federal law, are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or have been employed in the state. In addition, for purposes of enforcing state labor and employment laws, a person's immigration status is irrelevant to the issue of liability or in proceedings, where no inquiry is permitted into a person's immigration status except where the person seeking the inquiry has shown, by clear and convincing AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 3 of ? evidence, that the inquiry is necessary in order to comply with federal immigration law. (Labor Code §1171.5; Civic Code §3339; Health and Safety Code §24000; Government Code §7285) Existing law prohibits an employer from engaging in (or directing another person or entity to engage in) unfair immigration-related practices against any person for the purpose of, or with the intent of, retaliating against any person for exercising any right protected under Labor Code or by any local ordinance applicable to employees. "Unfair immigration-related practice" means any of the following practices when undertaken for retaliatory purposes (Labor Code §1019): a) Requesting more or different employment verification documents than are required under law, or refusing to honor documents that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine. b) Using the federal E-Verify system to check the employment authorization status of a person at a time or in a manner not required under federal law, or not authorized under any memorandum of understanding governing the use of the federal E-Verify system. c) Threatening to file or the filing of a false police report, or a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency. d) Threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities. Existing law prohibits the state, or a city, county, city and county, or special district, from requiring an employer, other than one of those government entities, to use an electronic employment verification system, including E-Verify, except when required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. (Labor Code §2811-2813) This Bill would enact provisions of law related to the use of the federal electronic employment verification system known as E-Verify. Specifically, this bill: 1)Prohibits an employer or other person, except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds, from using E-Verify to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or applicant at a time or in a manner not AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 4 of ? required under specified federal law or not authorized under any federal agency memorandum of understanding governing the use of a federal electronic employment verification system. 2)Specifies that nothing in this bill shall prohibit an employer from utilizing E-Verify in accordance with federal law to check the employment authorization status of an individual who has been offered employment. 3)Provides that if the employer receives a tentative nonconfirmation issued by the Social Security Administration or the United States Department of Homeland Security, the employer shall comply with the required employee notification procedures under any memorandum of understanding governing the use of the federal E-Verify system, including to furnish to the employee with the notification as soon as practicable. 4)Provides that, in addition to other remedies available, an employer is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for each unlawful use of the E-Verify system. 5)States that this bill is intended to prevent discrimination in employment rather than to sanction the potential hiring and employment of workers who are not authorized for employment under federal law. COMMENTS 1. Background on E-Verify: E-Verify is a voluntary internet-based system operated by the USCIS in partnership with the SSA. The purpose of E-Verify is to electronically compare information entered on the I-9 form with records contained in SSA and USCIS databases to verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees. Currently, E-Verify is free to employers and available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to USCIS, the program is currently able to compare information taken from the I-9 form against more than 425 million records in SSA's database, and more than 60 million records in DHS's immigration databases. New enhancements to E-Verify also includes naturalization data which can help to instantly AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 5 of ? confirm the citizenship status of naturalized U.S. citizens; however, naturalized citizens who have not yet updated their records with SSA are the largest category of work authorized persons who initially face an SSA mismatch. Once a case is submitted to E-Verify, E-Verify determines if the information entered matches the information in government records. After the information is provided, E-Verify provides an initial case result, which is either "Employment Authorized" or "Tentative Nonconfirmation" (TNC). If an employee receives a TNC in E-Verify, the employer must promptly provide the employee with a written notice about the TNC, at which time the employee either elects to contest it or not to contest it. If an employee decides to contest the TNC, the employer must promptly provide a referral letter from E-Verify that contains specific instructions, contact information, and a deadline for contacting either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Social Security Administration (SSA), depending on the source of the mismatch. The employee must be given eight federal government work days to contact the appropriate federal agency to resolve the information mismatch. On March 21, 2011, USCIS launched E-Verify Self Check, the first online E-Verify program offered directly to the U.S. workforce. This program enables individuals to voluntarily check their own employment eligibility information to confirm that it is in order. If Self Check finds a data-mismatch, the individual can receive instructions to correct the records with the appropriate federal agency. 2. Accuracy of TNCs and Proper Use of E-Verify: The effectiveness of E-Verify has been questioned by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). On December 17, 2010, the GAO released a report to several Committees in the House of Representatives, titled "Employment Verification: Federal Agencies Have Taken Steps to Improve E-Verify, but Significant Challenges Remain." According to GAO, the E-Verify system has improved since its creation, however, the system still faces challenges, including the rate of tentative non-confirmation letters (TNCs) that may occur because of an employee's failure to update his or her nationalization status in SSA databases, failure to report a change in his or her name to SSA or an employer's error in entering the employee's data into the E-Verify system. AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 6 of ? The GAO report also notes that of the 22,512 TNCs resulting from name mismatches in 2009; approximately 76 percent were for citizens and approximately 24 percent for noncitizens. The GAO asserts that, an E-Verify mandate for all new hires would generate approximately 60 million queries and of these, about 164,000 citizens and noncitizens would receive a name-related TNC each year. However, GAO warns that this number would greatly increase if E-Verify were made mandatory for all employees nationwide. Existing law prohibits an employer from engaging in (or directing another person or entity to engage in) unfair immigration-related practices against any person for the purpose of, or with the intent of, retaliating against any person for exercising any right protected under Labor Code or by any local ordinance applicable to employees. "Unfair immigration-related practice" means any of the following practices when undertaken for retaliatory purposes: a. Requesting more or different employment verification documents than are required under law, or refusing to honor documents that appear to be genuine. b. Using the federal E-Verify system to check the employment authorization status of a person at a time or in a manner not required under federal law, or not authorized under any memorandum of understanding governing the use of the federal E-Verify system. c. Threatening to file or the filing of a false police report, or a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency. d. Threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities. 3. Need for this bill? The electronic employment verification program of E-Verify confirms the employment authorization of new hires based on information provided on the Federal Form I-9. However, because Form I-9 may only be completed after an employee has been offered and accepted employment, E-Verify may not be used to prescreen applicants. In addition, if an employer chooses to use E-Verify, it must be used for all new hires (both U.S. citizens and non-citizens) and cannot be used to verify current employees unless the employer is required to under a AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 7 of ? federal contract. Additionally, employers cannot take any adverse action based on an E-Verify TNC against an employee who contests the TNC. Adverse actions include firing, suspending, withholding pay or training, or otherwise infringing upon the employee's employment. Lastly, employers must allow employees to work while they are contesting their TNCs and until the employee receives a Final Nonconfirmation (FNC). As noted above, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, of the 22,512 TNCs resulting from name mismatches in 2009, approximately 76 percent were for U.S. citizens and approximately 24 percent for noncitizens. The error rate of E-Verify has resulted in several potential employees being misidentified as not being eligible for employment, and many having to utilize financial and legal resources to resolve the discrepancies. The author and the sponsors state that there have been reports of employers misusing E-verify against their workers. They believe this bill is necessary to limit the misuse of E-verify by prohibiting employers from engaging in unjust E-Verify practices against workers and imposing a civil penalty of a maximum of $10,000 for each unlawful use of the E-Verify system. 4. Proponent Arguments : According to the author, each year, thousands of people may be wrongly kept from working or even fired because of a federal program known as E-Verify. TNC rates are particularly high for employment-authorized immigrant workers even if they are employment authorized. This is of significant concern because companies have taken adverse actions against individuals and workers who receive TNCs. While the President's "deferred action" deportation relief initiatives represent key steps forward, individuals eligible for these newly announced programs could potentially be erroneously flagged by the E-Verify system, at least half of California's undocumented immigrant community members are excluded from protection. Misuse of E-Verify threatens to drive undocumented Californians deeper into the underground economy. The author states that while E-Verify is optional for most companies in California, it builds an added barrier within the employer-employee relationship. By using E-Verify, companies AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 8 of ? are positioned to act as immigration agents causing detriment to productivity and confusion in the workplace. Under federal regulations, E-Verify should not be used on job applicants and current workers yet there are virtually no accountability measures or penalties in place for unscrupulous employers who abuse E-Verify. This bill is co-sponsored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the California Immigrant Policy Center. They argue that this bill will strengthen California's protections for all workers by limiting misuse of the E-Verify program and creating penalties for abuse. The sponsors states that this bill would codify and clarify existing federal policy by prohibiting employers from engaging in potentially discriminatory E-Verify practices, clarifying the notification process for businesses and workers, and creating financial civil penalties for employer abuse. 5. Opponent Arguments : The California Bus Association has major concerns over the fact that the federal government, who has jurisdiction of immigration and naturalization, requires verification of citizenship or naturalization for purposes of employment. Many of the companies in their association use E-Verify or something similar to comply with this law. They argue that this bill hinders their ability to comply with federal law by not allowing them to use the E-Verify system. The California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors believes that immigration policies and practices, including the E-Verify system, are federal government issues and that it is best to have the federal government deal with potential unlawful business practices. 6. Prior Legislation : AB 1065 (Chiu) of 2015: Held in Assembly Suspense AB 1065 would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to request more or different documents than are required under federal law for employment eligibility verification (I-9 form), or to refuse to honor documents tendered that appear to be genuine, or to discriminate against an immigrant with authorization to work based upon the AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 9 of ? specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization, or to attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee's authorization unless required by federal law. AB 263 (R. Hernandez) of 2013: Chaptered AB 263 prohibits an employer or any other person or entity from engaging in unfair immigration-related practices, as defined, against any person for the purpose of retaliating against the person for exercising specified rights. The law defines "unfair immigration-related practice" to include using E-Verify to check the employment authorization status at a time or in a manner not required under federal law or authorized under a federal memorandum of understanding. AB 1236 (Fong) of 2011: Chaptered AB 1236, enacted provisions of law that prohibit state and local entities from requiring an employer to use an electronic employment verification system, including E-Verify, except when required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. SUPPORT California Immigrant Policy Center (Sponsor) Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Sponsor) American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299 API Equality-LA Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles Asian American's Advancing Justice-Sacramento Asian Law Alliance CA Conference Board of the Amalgamated Transit Union CA Conference of Machinists California Conference Board of the Amalgamated Transit Union California Conference of Machinists California Employment Lawyers Association California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance California Partnership California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation California Teamsters Public Affairs Council Central American Resource Center CLEAN Carwash Campaign Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 10 of ? Dolores Street Community Services East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy Educators for Fair Consideration Employee Rights Center Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE Local 20 Filipino American Service Group Inc. Garment Worker Center Immigrant Legal Recourse Center Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition International Longshore and Warehouse Union Jobs with Justice San Francisco Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California Latino Coalition for a Healthy California National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter National Day Laborer Organizing Network Orange County Immigrant Youth United Our Family Coalition Pomona Economic Opportunity Center Professional and Technical Engineers, IFPTE Local 21, AFL-CIO Resistencia Autonomia Igualdad LideraZgo Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles Roots of Change San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium Service Employees International Union California Service, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health The CLEAN Carwash Campaign Transforming Immigrant Communities through Education UNITE-HERE, AFL-CIO UNITE-HERE, Local 30 Utility Workers Union of America Voz Interpreting Worksafe OPPOSITION California Bus Association California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors -- END - AB 622 (Roger Hernández) Page 11 of ?