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New Colorado Laws Challenge Employers

by Diane Adams

As a result of new legislation designed to discourage the hiring of undocumented workers, Colorado employers are faced with a complex new array of compliance procedures. Two new bills, HB 06-1343 and HB 06S-1017 are sending shock waves through the Colorado business community, sparking debate amongst immigration attorneys and other compliance specialists about how the new measures should be approached.

HB 1343 outlines procedures to ensure that illegal aliens are not employed by public contractors or subcontractors, requiring public contractors to run all new hires through the federally administered Basic Pilot program. It is important for Colorado contractors (and those in states or localities with similar measures in place such as Georgia and Idaho) to bear in mind that the Basic Pilot program cannot be used as a tool to screen job applicants. Use of the program in this way might constitute discrimination and result in a lawsuit.

HB 1017 requires ALL Colorado employers to examine the legal work status of every newly hired employee, and affirm in writing, within 20 days of the hire, the legal work status of the employee. It further specifies that employers must keep copies of all documents provided by an employee used to prove work eligibility, and sign an attestation confirming, under penalty of perjury, that the employer has not knowingly hired an illegal worker. Photo copies of the documents and attestations must be kept either on paper or electronically, for each new hire as of January 1, 2007. The employment verification documents must remain on file for three years after the date of hire, or one year after the termination date of an employee, whichever comes first.

The Colorado Department of Labor (CDL) has released a recommended attestation page, which employers can use for the purpose of complying with HB 1017. The form is only a recommended page, and it is conceivable that a company would choose to create its own form. All forms must contain the signature of the company representative responsible for determining employment eligibility attesting to the following:

  • The employer has examined the legal work status of each new employee hired on or after January 1, 2007.
  • The employer has retained copies of required I-9 documents for examination.
  • The employer has not altered or falsified the documents.
  • The employer has not knowingly hired an illegal alien.
Although HB 1017 does not mandate the use of the Basic Pilot verification program (a DHS administered program that checks for discrepancies between the Social Security Number and name submitted by an employee), the implication is that you’d better not have illegal workers on your payroll, and it’s up to you to make sure this doesn’t happen. Basic Pilot is free and allows a company to show intent to comply, even if it turns out that false documents were presented by an employee. The fact that employers must attest to the legality of each worker that they hire might leave many businesses caught holding the bag if the worker turns out to be ineligible.

While many question the legality of the new Colorado laws, claiming that immigration legislation is a federal issue, Colorado employers must bite the bullet and comply in the meantime or face stiff fines and/or state contract revocations.

About The Author

Diane Adams is a freelance writer specializing in immigration law that affects American employers. She is the editor of The Lookout Monitor, an online publication by Lookout Services, Inc.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.