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Employment eligibility verification in Florida can go too far

The news has been replete in recent months with stories regarding employment eligibility verification. Many states across the country have enacted state laws concerning the use of the federal E-Verify system. Florida lawmakers considered measures regarding immigration, but no bill passed during the most recent session. This blog has reported that all Florida state agencies in the state must use E-Verify under an executive order signed by Governor Rick Scott.

Although questions of whether use of E-Verify have risen over the course political debate recently, it remains that businesses are required to comply with laws regarding I-9 compliance. Companies that do not have the proper documentation on hand regarding employment eligibility of workers hired after 1986 can run into problems. But as a recent lawsuit points out seeking more information from some applicants while pursuing employment eligibility verification may not be better for an employer.

Federal law requires certain steps be taken to document employment eligibility. But federal law also prohibits discrimination during that process. The Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods, Inc. alleging a unit of the giant agricultural company discriminated against job applicants by requiring some non-U.S. citizens who were authorized to work in the country and some foreign born U.S. citizens to provide more work-authorization documents than those required under federal law.

The Justice Department seeks a cease and desist order from an administrative law judge in the agency's Executive Office for Immigration Review. The agency also seeks remedial relief on behalf of workers who may have suffered economic loss as a result of the alleged documentation practices.

Smithfield Foods reportedly has not reviewed the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the company told the Virginian-Pilot Smithfield Foods "makes every effort to eliminate barriers to employment for foreign-born workers, while at the same time ensuring that it respects the letter and intent of U.S. immigration law."

A seasoned Miami employment eligibility verification attorney can assist a Florida business in following the law and fulfilling I-9 compliance.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Unit of Smithfield Foods faces discrimination suit," Tom Shean 29 Jun 2011

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