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Is E-Verify too demanding on business?

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KAI RYSSDAL: There will be some changes to labor rules on the heels of Labor Day. Starting Tuesday, federal contractors are going to have to check a job applicant’s legal status before letting them begin work. The requirement to use a free online database known as E-Verify is part of an effort to keep undocumented workers off the government payroll.

Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler explains.

Jeff Tyler: E-Verify checks a person’s identity and citizenship against government databases. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls the system a burden for employers. But at least one corporation disagrees.

Charles Brimmer: It’s not a very time-consuming program.

Charles Brimmer is with the employment company, Manpower. On any given day, the firm employs about 400,000 people worldwide. Those in the U.S. are all checked using E-Verify.

Brimmer: It takes three to five seconds to get a result right back in the system about their eligibility to work in the United States.

And if Brimmer has problems:

Brimmer: The help desk for the government is great. I’ve called a variety of times and someone is on the phone within five or 10 seconds. I barely have to wait.

E-Verify can pose challenges for small businesses. Kim Carmichael is with Watson & Cochran, a cabinetmaker in Texas. She had started taking an online tutorial on how to use E-Verify.

Kim Carmichael: There’s all this information that you have to read. And you have to take courses and take tests and pass the tests. I spent about a day and a half and I wasn’t even half-way finished. So I just quit in the middle of the process and decided that we weren’t going to do it.

Carmichael could give up, because her company isn’t a government contractor. But that exemption may not last. Congress is considering legislation that would require all employers to use E-Verify.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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