Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Half a Million U.S. Employers Now Using E-Verify to Check Job Applicants’ Status

            More than 500,000 employers now use E-Verify in about 1.5-million workplaces, the federal government’s free online service that allows United States employers to confirm their new employees’ eligibility to work in this country.

            U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States – either U.S. citizens or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization.

            Operating since1996, E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Employers who use E-Verify receive a response on an employee’s work authorization status within seconds -- 98.8 percent of work-authorized employees are automatically confirmed instantly or within 24 hours, requiring no further employee or employer action.

            "Participation in E-Verify is largely voluntary, so the fact that half a million companies have signed up demonstrates significant confidence in the program,” said Lori Scialabba, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Employers using E-Verify find it helps them maintain a legal workforce in a quick, secure and accurate way."

            During the program’s first 16 years annual enrollments have increased tenfold, from 11,474 in 1996 to 111,671 in 2012. Last year employers used E-Verify more than 25 million times, according to USCIS.

Recent system enhancements include:

  • The introduction of “Self Check”, which allows individuals to look up their employment eligibility status and correct their records before they seek work;
  • The capability to combat identity fraud by locking Social Security numbers suspected of being misused for employment eligibility verification; and
  • A redesigned website to include “more plain-language content and easy-to-follow graphics.”

            The U.S. Senate and the House both have pending immigration reform proposals mandating the use of E-Verify by private employers nationwide. Both bills would phase in employers’ obligation to use an E-Verify program over a period of years, depending on an organization’s size.

            The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Council for Global Immigration are advocating for a single “reliable and secure” verification system that pre-empts state laws and uses identity-authentication tools, such as knowledge-based authentication, to protect against identity theft so that businesses can confidently hire work-authorized employees.

            “The current E-Verify program can be defeated by identity theft,” said Mike Aitken, SHRM vice president for government affairs. “While E-Verify can confirm that the documents presented by a job applicant are real, it cannot confirm that the prospective employee is the person who owns that identity. This leaves the door open for unauthorized individuals to use impostor identities to gain verification of work authorization.”

            Employers and other interested persons may visit www.uscis.gov/E-Verify online for more information about the program, both in English and Spanish. USCIS has recently released “E-Verify for Business Leaders,” a new four-minute video that introduces the program’s benefits to prospective users. It is accessible online at: http://www.uscis.gov/videos/video-e-verify-business-leaders.

Miami Chiropractic Office Pays $170,000 To Settle Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

            Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. (DMS), a Miami company owned by Dr.  Dennis Nobbe which provides medical and chiropractic services, has agreed to settle a religious discrimin­ation lawsuit filed against it in the federal district court in Miami by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

            According to the EEOC, DMS had required its employees to participate in Scientology religious training and practices, and fired two of them for refusing to do so.

            Dynamic has two clinical locations, one at 8303 S.W. 40th Street (Bird Road) in Miami, and the other at 1685 West 49th Street, Suite #1104, in Hialeah, at the Westland Mall.

            The EEOC’s investigation disclosed that DMS required its employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved  Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at  someone for eight hours without moving.  The company also instructed employees to attend courses at a Church of Scientology.  Additionally, the company required one employee to undergo an "audit" by connect­ing herself to an Electropsychometer or "E-meter," which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo "purification" treatment at the Church of Scientology. 

            According to the EEOC's suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the religious courses, but were told that it was a requirement of their jobs.  When two of them – one a Jehovah’s Witness -- refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and objected to conforming to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated from their jobs by Nobbe as retaliation.

            In its court complaint, the EEOC alleged that Nobbe’s employees “were subjected to a hostile work environment based on religion by Dynamic’s unwelcome imposition upon them of Scientology religious views and practices”.

            Such practices violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, including forcing employees to conform to a particular  religion. 

            According to the terms of the settlement agreement, which was approved on December 18, 2013, by U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams through an order called a Consent Decree, DMS agreed to pay $170,000.00 to settle the lawsuit.  Payments were to be made to eight affected employees and former employees in amounts ranging from $500.00 to $54,400.00. DMS did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

            The settlement agreement also requires DMS to accommodate  employees who complain about attending and/or participating in religious  courses or other religious work-related activities for religious reasons; to  notify the EEOC if any employees request a religious accommodation; to adopt an  anti-discrimination policy that explains to employees their rights under Title  VII with respect to religious discrimination; and to conduct training for DMS  employees covering Title VII, and specifically focusing on religious  discrimination.   

            "The law is clear: An  employer cannot force his or her religion on staff by mandating that employees  practice or espouse a certain religion, and cannot refuse to accommodate employees  after they object to such discriminatory employment practices,” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's  Miami District.

            When the lawsuit was filed last year, DMS denied the EEOC’s allegations, stating that “Dynamic Medical Services prides itself on the diversity of its staff and denies that it engaged in any improper or unlawful actions with regards to its employees.”

            In the settlement agreement DMS asserted that “it neither terminated nor caused the termination of any employee for religious or any other prohibited reasons”; denied that any religious practice, procedure, or requirement was present in its workplaces; and also denied that it engaged in any other wrong-doing asserted in the EEOC’s complaint.

             Scientology is a religion developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, its founder, who died in 1986. His religious writings include “The Way To Happiness,” “Dianetics,” and “Original Thesis.”