The use of illegal immigrants in construction is not uncommon, and states are beginning to crack down on the practice. In so doing, statutes are being passed, or enforced, which require contractors (employers) to verify the eligibility of the people they hire.
In Pennsylvania, the recently signed Public Works Employment Verification Act, which is effective on January 1, 2013, will require contractors and subcontractors on public works projects in Pennsylvania to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired workers using the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify program.
The contractor must provide the public agency that awarded the contract with a form certifying that they have verified the employment eligibility of each new employee using the E-Verify program. The certification form must be provided to the agency prior to beginning work on the project. The contractors and subcontractors must also affirm their enrollment in the E-Verify program and acknowledge their responsibilities under the act.
“Public work” is defined in the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 as: “Construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration and/or repair work other than maintenance work, done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of the funds of a public body where the estimated cost of the total project is in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), but shall not include work performed under a rehabilitation or manpower training program.”
The act is to be enforced by the state Department of General Services, with violations resulting in progressive penalties. Contractors and subcontractors will receive a warning letter for a first violation, debarment from public work for 30 days for a second violation, and debarment for six to 12 months for subsequent violations. A court may order a contractor’s or subcontractor’s debarment for a period of three years if the court finds that a violation was willful. If the contractor fails to provide the verification form required under the law, a penalty of $250 to $1,000 may be assessed for each violation. A contractor or subcontractor that relies in good faith on the E-Verify program to verify a worker’s eligibility for employment is immune from the sanctions provided for under the act.