Florida Governor Signs E-Verify Law
FAIR Take | July 2020
On June 30, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed Senate Bill (SB) 664 into law significantly expanding the pool of Sunshine State employers who are required to use the federal E-Verify employment authorization check system.
After a lengthy and convoluted process involving multiple committee hearings in both chambers and hundreds of proposed amendments, SB 664 passed the legislature in March, just before Florida adjourned its legislative session.
In brief, the new law:
- requires all public employers – state, county, municipal and special districts – to use E-Verify, previously the law required only some state executive-branch agencies to use it;
- requires all public contractors to use E-Verify or lose their contracts;
- requires all recipients of state economic development incentives to use E-Verify or lose their incentive funding;
- requires private employers to either use E-Verify to ensure the employment authorization of their new hires or if they don’t use E-Verify to keep their I-9 forms with all of their employee documentation which shows their eligibility to work in the United States for three years;
- requires private employers to make all records and documents related to employment verification available on request to the Florida Attorney General (AG), Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP) and their local state attorney’s office; and
- creates a process for suspending and revoking the business licenses of private employers that fail to comply.
DeSantis’s spokeswoman Helen Ferré stressed the added importance of E-Verify in a time of high unemployment caused by the pandemic and lockdowns, saying “[g]iven the high unemployment rate due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever to ensure that the state’s legal residents benefit from the jobs that become available as Florida continues to reopen in a safe and smart manner.”
Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach), who sponsored the companion bill in the House, agreed, describing the E-Verify law as about “putting an emphasis on hiring Floridians and those who are lawfully in the country.”
While the legislation falls short of Gov. DeSantis’s campaign pledge to mandate the use of E-Verify by all employers, it is a significant improvement over the previous law.
SB 664 will take effect on January 1, 2021, giving employers almost six months to implement and prepare for it.