WASHINGTON (12/22/08)--Anyone who frequents the human resource or employment law blogs can tell you that a major topic of discussion these days is the federal government's E-Verify system. So, what exactly is E-Verify? The E-Verify program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). It enables employers to verify the employment eligibility of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's I-9 form against SSA and DHS databases. The program is free and, according to DHS, “the best means available for determining employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers.” Participation in E-verify is voluntary for most employers. But that is not the case with certain federal contractors and subcontractors, who will be required to begin using the E-Verify mid-January. How can you tell if a federal contract requires compliance with E-Verify? Credit Union National Association Director of Compliance Information Valerie Moss notes that federal procurement contracts that are awarded after Jan. 15 will include a clause committing government contractors to use E-Verify. So, she says, the answer to this question lies in the body of the federal contract. A credit union might wonder, Moss said, whether those that sell or redeem U.S. Savings Bonds are federal contractors. They are federal contractors for purposes of affirmative action (equal employment opportunity) but, Moss notes, that fact alone doesn’t make a credit union a federal contractor for purposes of complying with E-Verify. In fact, she says, according to the supplemental information to the E-Verify regulations, “agreements or activities performed by financial institutions that are not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) are not required to comply with the E-Verify provisions and clauses of the FAR.” Moss says further, “contracts for purchase of goods by companies from the federal government are not subject to the FAR and therefore are not required to comply with the E-Verify provisions and clauses in the FAR.” The Department of Defense, General Service Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration jointly issue the FAR for use by executive agencies in acquiring goods and services. These regulations do not apply to financial institutions’ agreements with the Treasury Department for the sale or redemption of U.S. Savings Bonds. Moss notes that her comments on this issue in no way constitute legal advice. “Credit unions should always consult the appropriate human resource professional regarding the application of any federal or state employment law to their credit unions’ operations,” Moss advises. Use the resource link below to visit the DHS e-Verify Web page.