Jonathan P. Cohen, P.A.
Call (954) 462-8850
Jonathan P. Cohen, P.A.
Call (954) 462-8850

500 East Broward Blvd., Suite 1710
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33394
Phone: (954) 462-8850
Fax: (954) 848-2987

Construction Companies and E-Verify: Florida’s New Law

Florida's new E-Verify law

Florida construction companies must know and ensure they comply with a new law or risk severe penalties. The law requires employers with 25 or more employees to use E-Verify to confirm prospective employees are eligible and legally authorized to work in the U.S. before employing them. Since the construction industry relies on immigrants to meet employers’ labor needs, you must review your hiring and onboarding processes to ensure your company complies. Here’s what you need to know about this law from Florida construction lawyer Jonathan P. Cohen, Esq.

What Is Florida’s New E-Verify Law?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1718 into law on May 10, 2023. Among other things, this law amended § 448.09, Fla. Stat. (2023), which applies to Florida employers. The revised § 448.09 requires employers with 25 or more employees to begin using the E-Verify system to verify the lawful employment authorization of all newly hired employees within three business days of hiring them.

Understanding E-Verify

The federal government has two different systems for employers to verify the employment eligibility of new employees, including Form I-9 and the E-Verify system. All U.S. employers are required to verify employment eligibility at the time of hiring, but the E-Verify system has been a voluntary additional check beyond Form I-9 before the passage of Florida’s new E-Verify law.

All employers are required to have new employees complete Form I-9 and submit unexpired, original identity and employment authorization documents. Employers must retain an employee’s Form I-9 and copies of their identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s personnel file for production and inspection if asked by the immigration authorities.

The E-Verify is an additional step beyond Form I-9. Employers will still need to complete Form I-9 and get copies of their employees’ identity and employment authorization documents. However, construction companies will now also have to participate in the E-Verify system.

The E-Verify system is an electronic database maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Participating employers can use the system to check new employees’ data against information in the system to verify their employment authorization. The system provides real-time information and helps to prevent document fraud and human error.

What the Law Changed

Any employer with local or state contracts or that received public incentive funds was already required to use E-Verify. However, the new law expands the E-Verify requirement to include any private employer with 25 or more employees.

An employee is defined as anyone who is hired to fill a permanent position to perform work for the employer. If the E-Verify system is down for three business days after the new employee’s hiring date, the employer should take screenshots showing the system is unavailable, retain them, and complete the I-9 Form. In that situation, the employer will be excused from the E-Verify requirement.

Penalties for Violating Florida’s New E-Verify Law

Construction companies must comply with the new law. The penalties for employers violating the law are severe. Beginning on July 1, 2024, employers are subject to penalties if they do not comply. Several agencies have been granted the power to enforce the law, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), The Florida Attorney General, and the State Attorney.

The DEO will send a letter of noncompliance if it determines your company has failed to verify your employees’ work authorization. Once you receive this letter, you will have 30 days to correct the problem. If the agency determines you have failed to use E-Verify three or more times in 24 months, your company can be fined $1,000 per day and have your licenses revoked until the violation is cured.

Impact of the Law on Construction Companies

Construction companies must know and comply with the new E-Verify law. Many construction companies depend on immigrants to fill their labor needs, and some cut corners by failing to verify the people they hire are legally allowed to work in the U.S. Repeated violations of the new law could result in a construction company losing its contractor license and ability to perform work in the state along with substantial fines.

Get Help From a Florida Construction Lawyer

Complying with all laws and regulations that apply to the construction industry is critical for construction companies. To ensure compliance, it’s important to work with an experienced Florida construction lawyer at the law firm of Jonathan P. Cohen, P.A. Attorney Jonathan P. Cohen, Esq. has over ten years of experience handling construction legal matters and can provide guidance to your company about the relevant laws and regulations. To learn more, contact us for an appointment by calling (954) 462-8850.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The content in this article is presented for general informational purposes only.