Barely two months into the 2009-2010 session, the North Carolina General Assembly has already introduced a profusion of employment-related bills.
By comparison, the 2007-2008 session produced only a handful of employment-related bills of significance, and no groundbreaking laws were passed.
Employers should keep a watchful eye on several bills that already appear to have strong support this new legislative year.
Requiring E-Verify use
As we predicted last September (see “Prepare for possible changes in employment eligibility verification” ), identical bills have been reintroduced in the state House (H344) and Senate (S32) that would require private employers to use the federal E-Verify program when hiring new employees.
Through E-Verify, employers can compare employment eligibility information provided by an employee on a Form I-9 against databases maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Historically, E-Verify has been a wholly voluntary program.
Currently in North Carolina—and nationwide—all federal contractors must use E-Verify. Also, since January 2007, all North Carolina state agencies have been required to use it. North Carolina joined Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Utah in this requirement. To date, though, only Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina have enacted laws requiring private employers (who are not federal contractors) to use E-Verify.
In addition to H344 and S32, two competing bills pending in the House (H324 and H388) would require participation in the E-Verify program by recipients of stimulus funds pursuant to the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In the Senate, a comprehensive North Carolina Illegal Immigration Act (S337) is pending that would require, among other things, all employers to participate in the program.
The E-Verify program was set to expire in March until Congress authorized funding for it through the end of fiscal year 2009.
Mandatory paid sick leave?
Significant amendments to the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act are being debated this legislative session, as well.
A proposed Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act, pending before both the House (H177) and Senate (S534), would mandate paid sick time benefits—up to seven work days (56 hours) in a calendar year—for North Carolina employees.
Organizations endorsing this proposed law include the AARP of North Carolina, the NAACP of North Carolina, North Carolina Association of Educators, North Carolina Council of Churches, North Carolina Justice Center and various health-related organizations.
In addition, several pending bills (H22, H23, S276 and S277) would enhance protections for underage workers and increase penalties for violations of North Carolina’s child labor laws.
It’s worth the effort to track all these bills. You can follow their progress through the Legislature and read them online at www.ncleg.net/Legislation/Legislation.html.
As always, should any of these bills—or any future submitted bills affecting employers—become law, you can expect a full discussion of the ramifications in North Carolina Employment Law.
Health care options
Although no groundbreaking bills specifically targeting employment law passed during the 2007-2008 legislative session, one law contained a provision worth noting.
Within the Insurance Chapter of the General Statutes, the General Assembly codified a Health Insurance Risk Pool. (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 58-50-175 to -255) This law provides an opportunity for affordable individual health coverage for people who lack access to employer-sponsored health plans or who are caught uncovered as a result of excludable pre-existing conditions.
More information on the program is available at http://nchirp.org.
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