Tennessee Law Imposes Employment Verification Requirements


In the closing days of the most recent legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation aimed at requiring employers to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The “Tennessee Lawful Employment Act” (Public Chapter No. 436) mandates that most Tennessee employers either use the federal E-Verify program or review certain identification documents of new employees and independent contractors. Governor Haslam signed this bill on June 7, 2011, and it will take effect on January 1, 2012.

What Does The New Law Require?

New verification mandate. All employers are already required under federal law to verify the work status of new hires, via the I-9 process. This process requires employers to complete an employment eligibility form required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for new hires, excluding independent contractors. The new Tennessee law now imposes these same requirements under state law. An employer’s obligation to use the I-9 process under federal law will not change, however, the new law will remove the safe harbor protection for employers under current Tennessee law where the lawful verification information is later determined to be false. In addition, it will require employers to either request and maintain a copy of one of certain identification documents, such as a driver's license, or, alternatively, to enroll in the E-Verify program. E-Verify is a federal electronic work authorization verification service created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and first introduced in 2003. Aside from government contractors, E-Verify is not mandated by federal law, and only about 4,000 Tennessee employers currently use the service.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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