Groups Sue over E-Verify Mandate for Federal Contractors

December 26, 2008 ( - Five business groups have filed suit in federal court in an attempt to stop a planned rule requiring federal contractors to use the U.S. government's electronic employment verification system.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the suit targets a presidential executive order requiring most federal contractors and subcontractors use the E-Verify system beginning January 14, 2009. Joining SHRM in the lawsuit are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors, American Council on International Personnel, and the HR Policy Association.

“The E-Verify system is far from ready to be mandated on employers. Plus, the authority to mandate it lies with Congress, not a federal agency,” commented Michael Aitken, SHRM’s director of government affairs, according to an SHRM news report.

After the proposed rule for the executive order appeared in the Federal Register on June 12, 2008, SHRM and the HR Initiative for a Legal Workforce submitted comments criticizing the proposed regulations, the news report said. The groups are critical of E-Verify’s reliance on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) database, which has an error rate of 41%, according to a report by the SSA’s inspector general.

“These errors result in legally authorized individuals being improperly denied employment as well as nonwork-authorized individuals being improperly verified by the system,” the SHRM comments stated, according to the news report. “We do not believe the proposed regulation is the best way to accomplish the objective of ensuring a legal workforce.”

E-Verify was created as part of immigration reform enacted by Congress in 1996, and SHRM claims the congressional intent was for the verification system to remain voluntary.

At the end of July, the U.S. House of Representatives moved to extend E-Verify’s use for five more years. The proposed bill would keep the program voluntary (See House Bill Would Extend Use of Federal E-Verify Program).