Pennsylvania Expands E-Verify for Construction Companies
By Shari Rendall | FAIR Take | October 2019
On October 7, the Construction Industry Employee Verification Act, House Bill (HB) 1170, became law without Democrat Governor Tom Wolf’s signature. During a live broadcast of “Ask Governor Wolf,” he called the decision a “tough one” but noted that because the bill had bipartisan support he would not veto it.
HB 1170 requires construction companies to use E-Verify for new hires to determine whether the applicants are authorized to work in the United States. Employers who hire unauthorized workers will be forced to fire them. The bill does not require employers to check their workforce retroactively. HB 1170 passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly.
The Department of Labor will investigate complaints. For a first violation, the construction company will receive a warning and will be required to terminate all unauthorized workers. The Attorney General will prosecute subsequent violations. Companies that violate the act a second or subsequent time will be placed on probation for three years. They will also be required to file quarterly reports confirming the verification of all new hires. If the construction companies do not comply with the probation terms, their business license can be suspended until they comply. For repeat offenders, the court can suspend their license for one year or up to a permanent revocation.
Pennsylvania had previously only required E-Verify for publicly funded construction contracts that exceeded $25,000. However, Democrat sponsor Representative John Galloway (Bucks County) pushed E-Verify for all construction companies because “bad acting employers have cut costs by … hiring undocumented workers.” He said, “Employers are hurting the construction industry by driving down wages, creating an unlevel playing field for other employers and depriving the government of revenue that would be used to fund programs like unemployment compensation.”
Unsurprisingly, so-called “immigrant rights” groups opposed HB 1170 and urged Governor Wolf to veto it. Desi Burnette, coordinator for the Movement of Immigrant Leaders called HB 1170 “shortsighted” saying that it would “hurt working families in every district across the state.” The Service Employees International Union claimed that the E-Verify policy was “divisive and unnecessary” and would only push illegal aliens further into the shadows.
HB 1170 takes effect in October 2020.