The South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act will take effect for all South Carolina employers on July 1, 2010. Private employers with at least 100 employees have been subject to the Act since July 1, 2009, but this summer it will also apply to smaller employers with fewer than 100 employees.

The Act prohibits employers in South Carolina from employing unauthorized aliens and it establishes additional steps that smaller employers must now take to verify the work status of new hires. Employers that violate the Act will face tough penalties in the form of monetary fines, suspension, and even permanent revocation of the ability to employ workers in South Carolina.

Under the Act, employers are required to verify the employment authorization of all newly-hired employees by either: (1) participating in E-Verify or (2) employing workers who have a South Carolina driver’s license or DMV-issued identification card or are eligible to obtain a South Carolina driver’s license or identification card. Out-of-state driver’s licenses from certain states also may be sufficient for verification purposes.

In addition to the verification requirements, all private employers are “imputed” a state employment license that permits a private employer to employ a person in South Carolina. This newly-created, implied employment license will remain in effect as long as the employer complies with the provisions of the Act.

Employers that violate the Act may incur civil fines of between $100 and $1,000 for each employee whose work status is not verified. If an employer is found to knowingly employ illegal immigrants, the employer’s employment license could be suspended and even revoked permanently.

The South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation (LLR) is responsible for enforcing the new law. LLR has been responding to complaints and vigorously conducting random audits of large companies and assessing fines for noncompliance. LLR has doubled the number of its investigators and it will start focusing on smaller employers on July 1, 2010.

All South Carolina employers are strongly recommended to be in compliance with the Act on July 1 to avoid having penalties assessed against them or their employment license suspended following an LLR investigation.

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