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Tennessee Making E-Verify Mandatory for Most Employers

On April 21, 2016, the Governor signed into law an amendment to the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act (TLEA) that will drop the document retention option in favor of mandatory E-Verify use for all Tennessee companies with 50 or more employees. This change will take effect January 1, 2017. 
The TLEA currently provides employers with a choice: either use E-Verify or request and retain certain documents from each employee. E-Verify is a free internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9 to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records and confirms employment eligibility.
Employers who choose instead to go with the document retention option, are required to request from the employee and keep a copy of one of 11 possible documents to prove employment eligibility. These documents include a valid driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, naturalization or other similar paperwork. Documents from the list would normally be presented in the Form I-9 employment verification processes required by federal immigration law; however, federal law does not require employers to maintain copies of these documents.
Employers with 50 or more employees, who do not presently use E-Verify, should take the time now to begin the process of enrollment prior to the effective date of the amendment to ensure they are ready to properly verify the employment authorization of any new hires by the effective date. The new legislation also shortens the time that employers have to remedy a non-compliance finding if they receive an initial order for violation of the TLEA. Currently, employers have 60 days, but as of January 1, 2017, they will only have 45 days, which is another incentive to ensure compliance now.
Penalties for violation of the TLEA include possible suspension of business licenses, being publicly listed as non-compliant on the state website, and monetary fines as follows:
  • First offense – $500 penalty + $500 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained;
  • Second offense – $1,000 penalty + $1,000 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained; and
  • Third offense – $2,500 penalty + $2,500 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained.
Until recently, we had not encountered much, if any, enforcement action related to the TLEA. Over the last several months, however, numerous clients have received Requests for Information to document compliance with the law, signaling an increase in enforcement. Employers are therefore advised to review their procedures and records as soon as possible to ensure they are in compliance. While the state may waive penalties for first-time violations for employers who willfully violate the law, but bring their employment verification records in to compliance, it is safer to ensure that records are in compliance before receiving a notice from the state. 

David S. Jones is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP. Have questions about a legal or labor and employment matter and how it may affect your business? Contact Fisher & Phillips at

Posted: 5/18/2016 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: &, big, business, employee, e-verify, Fisher, ideas, law, Phillips, SBC, small

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