By Phyllis D. Sims

Louisiana legislators passed two new laws during the most recent Legislative Session placing additional requirements on employers to check the citizenship status of employees.

Act 376 provides for the verification of employees engaged only in public contract work by enacting La. R.S. 38:2212.10.  The new law provides that a private employer shall not bid on or contract with a public entity unless the employer attests via sworn affidavit to the use of an immigration verification system to verify that all employees in the state of Louisiana are legal citizens of the U.S. or are legal aliens.  All subcontractors are required to do the same.  Violations of the new law may result in cancellation of the public contract and ineligibility for any public contract for a period of three years or less.  If the employer complies with the verification provisions and relies on the information obtained in accordance with the verification system, the employer is protected from state law civil and criminal liabilities for: (i) hiring someone that is later found to be an unauthorized alien and (ii) refusing to hire an individual whose legal status within the verification system was that of an unauthorized alien.  The provisions of the new law apply only to contracts entered into or bids offered on or after January 1, 2012.  If the status verification system expires and is not extended by the federal government, the provisions of this new law will no longer be applicable.  Link to Act 376

Act 402 has a much broader application than Act 376, requiring verification of citizenship and authorization for employment. La. R.S. 23:995 already prohibits a person from hiring an illegal alien.  Act 402 adds new provisions to this statute that become effective August 15, 2011.  The new law provides that a person shall not be subject to certain sanctions if: (i) the E-Verify system has been used to verify the citizenship or work authorization status of every employee or (ii) the employee has provided to the employer a picture identification and at least one of the following documents: a U.S. birth certificate or certified birth card, Naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, alien registration card, or U.S. immigration form I-94 with employment authorized stamp.  The employer must retain copies of all documents provided by the employee.  An employer who has used the E-Verify system is presumed to have been in good faith and is not subject to any penalty for relying on the accuracy of the information contained therein.  The penalty provisions within the statute have been increased to $500 for a first violation, $1,000 for a second violation, and $2,500 for a third violation.  The penalty provisions are applicable to each alien employed in violation of the law.  There is an exemption for health care facilities/entities licensed by DHH under the statutory provisions relating to second and third violations.  Link to Act 402