(Photo: John Partipilo)
A bill to expand the federal E-Verify program progressed in the legislature Tuesday as part of an effort to crack down on employment of undocumented workers.
The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to amend SB1780 to expand the E-Verify program to businesses with 35 employees instead of 25, as the bill was originally written.
Tennessee law currently only requires businesses with 50 employees or more to use E-Verify.
Committee members also voted to include a provision protecting employers from retaliatory discharge, or illegal termination, if an unauthorized employee applies for workers compensation due to an injury on the job.
A state House committee voted on the equivalent of the bill, HB1853, which was passed by the state House on first consideration on March 3.
Immigrant-rights advocates have called on legislators to vote against the bill’s passage, describing E-Verify as a flawed system that adds additional burdens to small businesses while targeting undocumented workers.
“As our state tries to recover from the ongoing pandemic, this bill would only burden small businesses across our state working hard to fill the employment gap. Tennessee already has one of the strictest E-verify laws in the nation; so why is our state legislature creating additional and costly barriers to filling that gap?” said Judith Clerjeune, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Votes (TIRRC Votes) Campaigns and Advocacy Director.
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