Although some small restaurant owners are still somewhat leery when it comes to participating in E-Verify — an Internet-based system that compares information from the Form I-9 to government records to confirm that an employee is authorized to work in the United States — restaurant owners, in general, seem ready to embrace the solution, according to a new survey released today by National Restaurant Association and ImmigrationWorks USA.
"Most people want to be on the right side of the law," Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, said today during a press call, when the survey results were revealed. "Sure, there are some employers that I call bad apples, who want to exploit (illegal workers), but the overwhelming majority are in a different position. Whether you own a small business or if you have a larger, corporate brand name at stake, the last thing they want is to put it in jeopardy."
The survey's respondents included nearly 800 restaurant owners and operators, non-restaurant foodservice operators and supply chain professionals, who shared their views on the system. Key findings include:
E-Verify usage. Overall, 23 percent of responding restaurant operators use E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires.
Most would recommend it. Eighty percent of restaurant operators who use E-Verify would recommend it to a colleague.
Reasons for enrolling. Two-thirds of the responding restaurant operators who use E-Verify enrolled voluntarily. Twenty-seven percent enrolled because it is mandated in states where they do business. And 2 percent use E-Verify because they do business with the federal government.
Reasons for not enrolling. Sixty-two percent of the restaurant operators who are not using E-Verify said they didn't enroll because they are small companies with no HR professionals.
Accuracy. Seventy-nine percent of restaurant operators said the E-Verify system had been 100 percent accurate.
Changes to hiring procedures. Most of the restaurant operators who use E-Verify said the program didn't cause major changes to their hiring or other procedures. Seventy-three percent said they made only minor changes to their hiring procedures.
Pool of applicants. Fifty-five percent of the restaurant operators who use E-Verify said the pool of applicants seeking employment in their businesses hasn't changed since they started using the system. Thirty-four percent said the pool of applicants has changed somewhat. And 11 percent said it has changed significantly.
Protecting smaller businesses
The survey, said Angelo Amador, vice president for labor and workforce policy of the National Restaurant Association, allowed respondents to provide comments, where many small business owners shared their concerns about E-Verify. The NRA has addressed most of those concerns, Amador said, in its proposed changes to the legislation.
Currently, the law requires employers to submit an I-9 form for each employee even if they are using E-Verify. NRA wants to strike the I-9 form, saying it's an unnecessary step since E-Verify goes further than the form in verifying immigration status. (For example, I-9 does not require a photo ID or a social security number; E-Verify requires both.)
Also, as of now, E-Verify must be done via computer and Internet, which can be a deterrent to smaller businesses, Amador said. He is pushing for a paper/telephone option, where employers may simply call a number to screen a possible employee's info.
The NRA is also pushing for one national E-Verify system that would pre-empt any state law regarding the system. As of now, about 20 states require the use of E-Verify.
Lastly, the system now in place requires employers to continue to hire a worker while he sorts out his work status, no matter how long it takes the government to attain it. This is burdensome on the employer, Amador said, so the new legistation has specific deadlines to better proect the employer.
"We support E-Verify, but it must be done right," Amador said.
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Cover photo: Federation for American Immigration Reform (Flickr)
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter and editor for nearly 15 years, writing on a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining Networld Media Group as managing editor of Food/Retail Publications, she was content specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City and has served as editor for several publications. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.