In today's dynamic Florida business landscape, construction companies are the engines of growth, and they serve as vital contributors to the overall economy. However, along with the myriad opportunities and challenges that come with running a construction company in this state, there's an often-overlooked aspect that can significantly impact success: Florida employee laws.
Navigating the complex web of those laws and regulations can be a daunting task for any business owner, particularly those at the helm of smaller companies with limited resources. These days, one of the biggest concerns for those companies advertising construction jobs in Florida is e-verification compliance.
What is it? How do you ensure you’re compliant? Whether you’ve been doing this for quite some time or you’re new to the Florida construction industry, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to navigate e-verification compliance.
What Florida Employee Laws Say About E-Verify
As of July 1, 2023, Florida requires many employers to use E-Verify, which is an electronic way employers can verify a potential candidate’s employment. The law says that any employer with 25 or more individuals counted as employees must use this system.
It also slightly changes the definition of employee. The Florida statute defining the idea of who is and is not an employee now reads “An ‘employee’ means an individual filling a permanent position who performs labor or services under the control or direction of an employer in the material details of how the work is to be performed in exchange for salary, wages, or other remuneration.”
It does specifically exclude independent contractors from this law. This means that you must use the system if you have more than 25 employees every time you hire for construction jobs in Florida. The law went into effect on July 1, 2023, so anyone who was newly hired after that date should have been part of the E-Verify process. Existing employees, however, are not required to undergo this process.
What is E-Verify?
If you’re unfamiliar with this system, it’s one that was developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration together. The goal is to be able to cross-reference individuals’ information against various government databases to ensure they’re eligible to be hired for a given job.
How Does E-Verify Work?
Employers who wish to use the system initially have to enroll in it by visiting the E-verify website and following the instructions that are provided on-site. At the beginning, a list of documents needed for the process is provided, and it's advisable to collect all of those documents prior to starting.
Once you’ve created an account and enrolled in the system itself, you can begin to verify the eligibility of new hires. You must notify any new employees that you will be using the E-Verify process, and you must give them the information provided regarding both their rights and responsibilities within this system. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to do this, as you can hang the federal posters in a location where they can see and study them, thus meeting this obligation. Legally, this must occur within three business days of the day they begin working for you. If there’s a reason you cannot do so within those first three days, you must keep documentation of the system’s inaccessibility on file to remain compliant.
To get started, you simply have every new hire complete an I-9 form. It asks for an employee’s name, date of birth, address, and their social security number. Once you have that completed form, you’ll enter the required information in the system, then follow the instructions that are on the screen. E-Verify will give you the results you need in real time, and you can move forward at that point. If there are some discrepancies or problems, the system will tell you what you should do next. If there are no problems, the employee can begin working for you.
It’s important, however, that you maintain a record of that verification process and any associated documents for every employee for at least three years from the date they were hired to remain compliant. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has the ability to conduct audits of your records, and you’ll want to be able to produce them just in case you get audited. Failure to comply with the law could lead to costly fines. You could even have your business license revoked.
Discrimination Remains Illegal
There was much concern surrounding the passage of this law that discrimination would be a problem, as some individuals applying may not have citizenship status in the United States. Regardless of whether you know the new hire’s background, you must treat them consistently and run them through the E-Verify process, as choosing not to do so may mean you’re discriminating according to both federal and state laws.
The Bottom Line
The commitment to upholding these regulations is a legal necessity for Florida construction companies. It will help to safeguard your organization against legal repercussions. Keep in mind, though, that you do have partners who can help. Staffing agencies like Labor For Hire are professionally equipped to understand and execute old and new employee laws, like e-verify. Explore what Labor for Hire can do for your team and how we can help ensure you remain E-Verify compliant. Contact us today for support in finding authorized hires for your company.