Uh-oh, Congress is about to 'fix' your hiring problems

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor
Many providers are hoping immigration reform can help ease the field's chronic understaffing challenges. But like many problems the government sets out to solve, this one is likely to cause a few more.

What could be particularly vexing is a national E-Verify mandate contained in the leading proposals under consideration. Should immigration reform pass, it appears almost certain your facility will have to use E-Verify to prove that every employee and job applicant can legally work in your community.

And what, you may ask, is E-Verify?

As the name suggests, this Web-based program is designed to certify worker eligibility. It does so by comparing information from an employee's Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data stored in federal records. If the information matches, that employee is good to go.

But what happens if there is a mismatch? Does that mean the candidate is illegal? Not necessarily. And that's where things might get dicey. In such instances, the employer and candidate must contact the appropriate agency to resolve the conflict within eight workdays. However, the full appeal process can easily eat up many weeks. That's not going to be a problem, is it?

Moreover, E-Verify often fails to hold up its end of the bargain. A largely favorable audit of E-Verify also predicts that the program is likely to deem 1.2 million to 3.5 million legal employees ineligible to work. Moreover, the auditor's numbers project 770,000 erroneous final non-confirmations — which require employers to fire the worker.

Need a real-world example of how your future might look? When the computer chip maker Intel put its new hires through the E-Verify system, 12% of the applicants were rejected as ineligible. Resolving the many false-positives (or is it positive-negatives?) cost Intel a fortune in lost productivity, money and unnecessary confusion, the firm noted.

Some states have already seen enough. California and Rhode Island prohibit the use of E-Verify. In Illinois, lawmakers have barred the state's employers from voluntarily using it until the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security can demonstrate an ability to clear errors within three days. But rather than make any attempt to deal with this seemingly reasonable request, DHS instead is suing the state over the law.

And if you as an employer are seeking a “safe harbor” from the possible damage E-Verify might wrongfully inflict, forget about it. Employers are already being fined in states that mandate E-Verify for technical violations.

For now, let's ignore the fact the federal government might soon be asking you as an employer to take responsibility for something it should be doing. And let's also ignore the very real possibility that this once volunteer program could become the platform used to create national IDs — complete with photos. Instead, let's just focus on the fact that an obviously broken tool will be used for a purpose it cannot now handle. And, oh, by the way, your facility and workers may need to suffer needlessly as a result.

And here's one more nugget to chew on: The same audit that found Swiss Cheese-type holes in the E-Verify program also concluded that it fails to prevent unauthorized hires. About half of them slipped through. Game, set, and match.

Think you have labor problems now? Just wait until the problem gets addressed, Congress style.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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