It doesn’t take long for Staffmark, which has executive offices in Brentwood, to verify whether prospective employees are legally eligible to work.
The company is one of the nation’s first to voluntarily use E-Verify, a free interface provided by the federal government that allows employers to check Social Security numbers and other identification with federal records.
“It’s instant,” said Keri Truitt, an employment specialist at a Staffmark office in Brentwood. “It’s a second, maybe.”
E-Verify, a program offered by the Department of Homeland Security, was designed solely to allow employers to check that prospective employees are who they say they are, according to Chris Bentley, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Bentley said there’s no telling how many people have been kept from working by the system, as that data isn’t tracked.
“There’s not an enforcement component to the E-Verify program,” Bentley said.
To date, less than 20,000 of America’s 7 million to 8 million employers have opted to use the system, Bentley said, including fewer than 1,000 in Tennessee. Although participation is still small, Bentley expects federal numbers to increase. The number of users has more than doubled in the last year, he said, and some states — including Arizona, Georgia and Colorado — have passed laws requiring use of E-Verify in some industries. And compulsory use of E-Verify is being discussed as a part of several immigration reform proposals, Bentley said.
Staffmark first began using E-Verify a little more than a year-and-a-half ago, with full implementation in all offices completed some time in 2006, said the company’s CEO David Bartholomew.
“When we send people out to work, the last thing we want our clients to be worried about is whether they’re illegal or not,” Bartholomew said. “I love telling our clients we’re doing this. We can tell them unequivocally that [employees] are who they say they are, because it’s been verified by Homeland Security.”
Staffmark has more than 250 staffing services offices in 30 states. More than 850 people work for the company internally, plus an average of 25,000 per week working for Staffmark in temporary or contract positions. Bartholomew said Staffmark volunteered to use E-Verify as a way to offer an additional service to clients — and to integrate, early on, a process
As immediate past chairman of the American Staffing Association, a professional organization representing approximately 15,000 offices nationwide, Bartholomew believes the system will one day be a standard in his industry.
“We knew something like this would be coming,” Bartholomew said. “This is the direction our country’s going in. If you’re not doing it, the federal government’s going to make sure that you’re doing it down the road.”
For Staffmark, the process is automatic — all prospective employees submit their information to Staffmark, and then information including Social Security numbers, dates of birth or information from other forms of identification including passports are automatically run through E-Verify. If the information doesn’t check out, Staffmark immediately receives a “tentative non-confirmation” notice for the individual in question. The prospective employee then has eight days to appeal the ruling with the government. If the matter isn’t resolved, their record is flagged by Staffmark’s system.
Suzie Armstrong, branch manager for Staffmark’s Brentwood office, said most of the “tentative non-confirmations” her staff has encountered have been for women who missed a step in the process of changing their names after marriage. Those problems were corrected when the prospective workers brought back receipts from the Social Security Administration, Armstrong said.
“We take it very seriously,” Armstrong said. “Every single person who goes through our doors goes through this process.”
But there is no reporting process to DHS if an applicant’s information does not check out, Armstrong said. The company does not track how many individuals have been turned away because of the system.
Bartholomew compares the information to what clients derive from background checks and drug tests.
“It’s just part of the practice of building a workforce, of building a reputable workforce,” Bartholomew said.