Most people think that changes to the laws or the way companies conduct business can only happen through the legislative changes.  But an Executive Order effective this week reminds us of the power of Executive Branch.   

Effective immediately, all federal contractors must now agree to use E-Verify, an Internet-based system operated by U.S. government, to electronically verify the employment eligibility of new employees.  This appears to apply to all contracts on a going-forward basis, not a look-back provision.  The White House’s press release is available here along with the text changes. 

The press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security has the particulars on Executive Order 12989:

The Department of Homeland Security today designated E-Verify, operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration, as the electronic employment eligibility verification system that all federal contractors must use as required by Executive Order 12989, as amended. E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the legal status of new hires within seconds.

"A large part of our success in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws hinges on equipping employers with the tools to determine quickly and effectively if a worker is legal or illegal," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "E-Verify is a proven tool that helps employers immediately verify the legal working status for all new hires."

President George W. Bush has amended Executive Order 12989 in order to direct all federal departments and agencies to require contractors, as a condition of each future federal contract, to agree to use an electronic employment eligibility verification system – designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security – to verify the employment eligibility of all persons hired during the contract term and all persons performing work within the United States on the federal contract

According to the Delaware Employment Law Blog, "This requirement apparently extends to all newly hired employees, not just employees hired to work on the government contract. In addition, the Executive Order requires the contractor to use an electronic verification system to verify the employment eligibility of “all persons assigned by the contractor to perform work in the United States.”"

Further details on the changes can be found at the Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Law Blog.

And major newspapers have also chimed in, including an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times which notes the creeping re-definition of what’s "reasonable":

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will require federal contractors to ensure the immigration status of employees through its E-Verify system. It’s a reasonable step — and that may be the problem. As immigration hawks have gone from triumph to triumph, the rest of us have had to adjust our views of what reasonable behavior is. 

For employment, it’s just one more detail that must be followed in an increasingly complicated mess of regulations, laws and now executive orders.