Prepared by Ted Gentry
E-Verify and SC Immigration Update
The federal E-Verify program to confirm workers’ authorization to legally work in the United States continues to gain attention from employers and lawmakers alike. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reports that E-Verify enrollment increased by 35% in 2012 and grows by about 1,500 employers each week. As of January 2013, over 424,000 employers were enrolled to use E-Verify, representing over 1.2 million worksites. On the legislative front, the U.S. Senate is again considering legislation to permanently authorize and require all employers to use E-Verify.
As you know from previous Wyche at Work posts, South Carolina law requires virtually all South Carolina employers to use E-Verify. Penalties for non-compliance with the law include probation, monetary fines, and suspension or revocation of licenses. According to numbers recently released from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the agency is serious about enforcing the State’s immigration law. LLR reports that in 2012 it conducted over 4,300 audits and found more than 300 employers who failed to use E-Verify, though none were repeat offenders and none lost their license to operate their business. Failure to E-Verify just one new hire may result in a one-year probation, so even small businesses should take steps to ensure compliance with the law. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your E-Verify policies and procedures.
USCIS Clarifies Effective Date for New Form I-9
As we reported in the March edition of Wyche at Work, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released its much-anticipated revised Form I-9 last month. In response to some confusion concerning the effective date of the new form, USCIS has published a correction in the Federal Register, stating that employers may no longer use prior versions of the Form I-9 beginning May 7, 2013. The revised form has a revision date of “03/08/13 N” and may be used by employers now. Employers who do not use the new form beginning May 7 will be subject to applicable penalties.
Concealed Weapons and Rights of Employers
There has been recent activity on concealed weapons bills in the South Carolina General Assembly. On April 23, 2013, the South Carolina Senate passed a bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to enter bars and restaurants serving alcohol. The proposed law, however, maintains the ability of business owners to prohibit concealed weapons on their premises. Another amendment would allow South Carolina gun owners to openly carry their weapons in public without a permit or prior training.
South Carolina business owners’ currently have the right under the South Carolina Code to regulate weapons on their premises and prohibit guns in the workplace. To convey such a policy, business owners should publish it to their employees and post signs to those entering company property. Violators of established employer policies, including employees and visitors, may be guilty of a misdemeanor, face thirty days in jail, have to pay $200 in fines, and have their permits revoked.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about drafting or communicating a statutorily compliant weapons policy for your business.
OSHA Targets Texting and Distracted Driving
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so we thought it would be a good time to highlight the importance of developing and enforcing sound policies regarding employees’ use of cell phones and other devices.
Citing motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of workers’ deaths in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has partnered with other federal agencies and associations to combat distracted driving. Distractions include eating or talking to passengers, but OSHA’s particular focus is the practice of texting and talking on cell phones while driving, as evidenced on the agency’s webpage devoted to distracted driving. In its Distracted Driving: No Texting brochure, OSHA recommends that employers declare employee and company vehicles as “text-free zones” and prohibit employees from texting while driving. That recommendation is backed by OSHA’s promise to “act quickly” to investigate complaints that texting is required or is a practical necessity and issue citations and penalties as necessary. When an accident has occurred, OSHA’s investigation involves the accident itself and cell phone records associated with the employer.
A model policy is available on the OSHA website. Please let us know if you need to have this or other related policies tailored to your company’s needs.
If you have any questions about these or other workplace law topics, please contact Ted Gentry.
This update is provided by Wyche for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.