January 09 2009 0comment

DHS postpones E-Verify requirement

Orlando Business Journal
by Kent Hoover

The federal government has postponed until Feb. 20 a requirement for government contractors to use the E-Verify system to check the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.

A new rule requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify had been scheduled to go into effect Jan. 15. The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that it would push back the date because of a federal lawsuit filed Dec. 23 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. The suit contends the government doesn’t have the authority to make E-Verify mandatory for contractors.

E-Verify provides an Internet-based means for employers to compare the names and Social Security numbers of newly hired employees against government databases. About 100,000 businesses participate in the program, which is now voluntary.

Under a regulation issued Nov. 14, however, companies that receive federal contracts of $100,000 or more must use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of all new hires and reconfirm the eligibility of existing employees that are assigned to federal contracts. These requirements also apply to most subcontractors.

Complying with the rule will cost federal contractors $188 million in 2009, according to government estimates.

Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, said the delay in the rule’s effective date will give the new Obama administration “an opportunity to re-evaluate the efficacy of the policy.”

“We hope the incoming administration recognizes that the last thing American businesses need during these difficult economic times is more bureaucracy and higher compliance costs,” Conrad said.

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said, however, that “the brief pause in implementation” will not change the rule, “which will remain legally final and binding.”

“This pause merely allows litigants the opportunity to make their case before a judge, and prevents parties opposed to the rule from additional stalling through litigation,” Knocke said. “We are confident that their arguments will not prevail.”