Many private Tennessee employers and all governmental entities are now required by law to demonstrate that they are hiring and maintaining a legal workforce according to a new Tennessee Lawful Employment Act law signed by Governor Bill Haslam. Tennessee entities must verify employee eligibility either by utlizing the E-Verify program or by requesting all newly hired employees to provide one of the following identity and employment authorization documents:

> A valid Tennessee driver’s license or photo identification
> A valid driver’s license or photo identification from another state where the license requirements are at least as strict as those in Tennessee
> A birth certificate issued by a U.S. state, jurisdiction or territory
> A U.S. government issued certified birth certificate
> A valid, unexpired U.S. passport
> A U.S. certificate of birth abroad
> A certificate of citizenship
> A certificate of naturalization
> A U.S. citizen identification card
> A lawful permanent resident card

Other proof of employee’s immigration status and authorization to work in the United States

The implementation dates for the new law are structured to occur in phases:
> January 1, 2012 – All state and local government entities and private employers with 500 or more employees must enroll and participate in E-Verify or request and maintain an identity / employment authorization document from a newly hired employee.
> July 1, 2012 – All private employers with 200 to 499 employees must enroll and participate in E-Verify or request and maintain an identity / employment authorization document from a newly hired employee.
> July 1, 2013 – All private employers with 6 to 199 employees must register and utilize E-Verify or request and maintain an identity / employment authorization document from a newly hired employee

Private employers with 5 or less employees are exempt from these new provisions. However, private employers with six or more employees to whom this law applies to must also collect one of the employment authorization documents types listed above for “non-employees” as well. The law defines “non-employee” as “any individual other than an employee, paid directly by the employer in exchange for the individual’s labor or services.”

Human Resource departments need to note that the law also specifies that employers must maintain records of results generated by the E-Verify program for three years after the date of the employee’s hire or for one year after the employee’s employment is terminated, whichever is later. Employers must also maintain records of any employment authorization documents for one (1) year after the employee or non-employee ceases to provide labor or services for the employer, whichever is later.

In the event of any alleged violations of the law, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Services is authorized to request documentation establishing the employer’s compliance with the law, and the employer is required to supply the documentation within thirty days. If the Department determines the employer has violated the new law, a final order for violation of the law shall be issued and may include fines and/or business license suspension.

Additional employment laws currently enacted in Tennessee include:

-HB 111 prohibits contractors from contracting with state agencies within one year of the discovery that the contractor employs illegal immigrants. Contractors must also attest that they do not employ illegal workers.

-HB 729 creates the criminal offenses of flagrantly employing, knowingly employing or knowingly encouraging or inducing an illegal alien to enter the state for the purpose of employing such illegal alien. Fines can amount to $50,000. Farmers are exempt from the new rule and are not required to have business licenses. Suspensions would be lifted once the company proves it no longer has any illegal immigrants as employees. Subsequent offenses occurring within three years would mandate license suspensions for one year. Employers who check identification and are misled by an illegal immigrant will not be considered to be in violation.

-SB 903 prohibits the use in the state of a federal individual taxpayer identification number as a form of identification to prove immigration status. It also provides that for purposes of an application or offer of employment, no person in this state shall accept an individual taxpayer identification number as a form of identification and any person, including any contractor, in this state who is presented with an individual taxpayer identification number by a potential employee or subcontractor as a form of identification or to prove immigration status shall reject such number and shall request the lawful resident verification information.