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By Ben Mathis & Kelly Morrison
On April 14, the Georgia state legislature passed immigrant legislation (HB87) on April 14, the final day of its 2011 session. Governor Nathan Deal announced that he approves of and will sign the bill. HB87 is strict, mandating that, effective July 1, 2013, any private company with more than 10 full-time employees, along with every public employer, regardless of its size, must register with the federal E-Verify program to check the legal status of new hires. Larger companies will have to implement the bill’s measures even sooner—January 1, 2012 for companies with 500 or more employees, and July 1, 2012 for companies with 100 or more employees.
According to the bill’s measures, an employee will be counted if he or she: (1) works at least 35 hours per week; and (2) receives a W-2 from the company, as opposed to a 1099 or other tax form.
The bill will be enforced through each municipalities’ business licensing division. After the applicable dates, any company applying for or renewing a business license must provide proof of enrollment in E-Verify in order to receive or renew their business license. Municipalities must provide the state with an annual report, confirming that licenses are only being issued to companies who are enrolled in E-Verify. Audits are to be conducted by the Department of Labor, although funding for these initiatives has been an issue in the past, and it is unclear whether this mandate will be funded in the future.
Additionally, the bill makes “aggravated identity theft” a crime, punishing illegal immigrants for the use of false documentation. Repeat offenders can receive up to fifteen years of jail time and/or $250,000 in fines. Additionally, it allows the police to question individuals about their immigration status and mandates sanctions for those who harbor or transport undocumented workers.
Despite the controversial nature of the bill, the measure passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, with a vote of 112-59 in the House and 39-17 in the Senate. Although a contingent of the Senate attempted to block the portion of the bill mandating use of the federal E-Verify system to ascertain the immigration status of employees, they were unsuccessful, and the bill was passed in its original form.
To read the full text of the bill, please visit:http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/displaybill.aspx?BillType=HB&billNum=87.
For more information, contact Ben Mathis at 770.818.1402 or [email protected] or Kelly Morrison at 770.818.1298 or [email protected] of the Labor & Employment Law Practice Group.