The Pennsylvania Senate recently approved Senate Bill 637, which seeks to amend the Commonwealth’s Procurement Code (see Title 62 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), is widely known as the E-Verify bill and will require all contractors and subcontractors performing work on a publicly funded project to verify their employees are legally permitted to work in Pennsylvania. Verification occurs by checking employees’ status on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s online E-Verify system. The bill mirrors the regulation the Department of Homeland Security put into effect in 2009 that requires all federal government contractors to verify the legality of their entire workforce through E-Verify.
The bill specifically requires a public works contractor, prior to the execution of the work, to provide a verification statement that ensures the employees on the job are legally permitted to be in the United States. According to Sen. Ward, it provides the means for better accountability in spending public funds as well as a mechanism to penalize those who continually violate the law.
Sanctions for willful violation would include warning letters, termination of contracts and potential debarment from future contract awards.
In related news, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar, albeit more comprehensive and stricter, version of employee verification requirements in Arizona. Challengers of the “Legal Arizona Workers Act” argued the state mandate on employers to use the federal E-Verify employment verification system is preempted by the federal “Immigration Reform and Control Act.” However, the Court held in The Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting (563 U.S. ___ (2011)) that Arizona’s statute falls within the confines of authority Congress chose to leave with the states, and therefore state mandates for E-Verify participation is not expressly forbidden.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 637 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.