Two Hotels Battle Unions Regarding Enrollment in E-Verify

Back in April, 2012, we reported on the developments of Knowing When to Enroll in E-Verify for employers who have a unionized workforce. In our article, we reported on the Pacific Steel Casting Company’s settlement contract, which required it to withdraw from the E-Verify Program. The precedent-setting settlement shed light on just how important it was for employers to evaluate their bargaining agreements before enrolling in the E-Verify Program.  Recent events indicate another battle between employer and union may be brewing.

HOTELS VS. UNIONS

It’s beginning to feel a bit like déjà vu. Two popular hotels in San Francisco, California, Hyatt Regency Hotel and Grand Hyatt San Francisco, became the subject of two complaints filed by local unions on June 26, 2012. According to the complaints, the two hotels allegedly enrolled in the E-Verify program and began implementing the system sometime in April 2012. Notices and posters for organizations enrolled in E-Verify is a required duty of an enrolled employer. Unite Here!’s Local 2’s Julia Wong indicated that approximately 25 workers of the two hotels, joined by their union representatives and local immigration groups, created a delegation to speak with hotel management about their enrollment in E-Verify and to express their concerns with the federal system’s accuracy rate. When negotiations failed, the complaints were then filed in June with the National Labor Relation Board to seek redress. The two complaints were consolidated into one case on August 31, 2012 by the NLRB. The legal basis for the complaints alleged that both hotels, respectively, enrolled and implemented E-Verify without first notifying or providing the union an opportunity to bargain and then refused to bargain with Union representatives, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. A hearing with the NLRB is scheduled for late October where testimony will be presented to determine if the hotels will be required to withdraw from the E-Verify program and to reinstate and/or pay back wages and benefits for any employees who may have been terminated as a result of tentative non-confirmations issued from the program. Ms. Wong of Unite Here! Local 2 said, “We are pleased these cases are moving forward and there is legal precedent on our side.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Increasingly, we are seeing the larger role the NLRB is playing in cases involving large organizations employing a unionized workforce. Enrollment in E-Verify in those situations may implicate potential violations of the National Labor Relations Act when done so without bargaining with the relevant bargaining units. Employer enrollment and direct access to the E-Verify system or via electronic E-Verify software can be very complex as it implicates not only immigration laws, but also labor and employment laws. As stated before in our prior article, it’s important for organizations, particularly when evaluating whether or not to enroll in E-Verify Program and implement against a unionized workforce, to consult with experienced legal counsel to explore what risks lay ahead. This case may rule in the employers’ favor and it may not. We’ll keep you updated as it evolves. Please sign up for our newsletter to get updates on this topic.