Employment: The New Oklahoma Immigration Law - What Employers Should Consider

02.01.10

The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Act creates several new laws concerning immigrants in Oklahoma. The Act took effect on November 1, 2007. However, some provisions do not take effect until July 1, 2008. The following is a brief summary of issues employers should consider.

  • Employers may be guilty of a felony if they transport, harbor, conceal, or shelter an employee in furtherance of their illegal presence if they know, or are in reckless disregard of, the fact that the employee is illegally present in the U.S.
  • It is unclear what "furtherance" means. However, one interpretation states that it would apply to any transportation for pecuniary interest of the alien. This could include giving an illegal alien a ride to work.
  • Any entity who contracts with an individual independent contractor must request the contractor's employment authorization. If the contractor can not provide authorization, the entity must withhold Oklahoma income taxes at the top marginal rate. This may provide constructive knowledge of violating federal law which prohibits contracting with aliens who are not authorized to work.
  • Public employers must use a verification system beginning November 1, 2007. Contractors who want to contract with public employers will need to begin using verification systems by July 1, 2008.
  • After July 1, 2008, it will be a discriminatory practice for any employer to discharge a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident employee while retaining an unauthorized alien in a comparable position if the employer should have reasonably known that the retained employee was unauthorized. This provision provides the discharged employee with grounds to bring a discrimination claim.  This definition only applies if the employer hired the unauthorized alien after July 1, 2008. The statute does provide an exception and the definition of discriminatory practice does not apply to employers who use a verification system.
  • There are four types of verification systems available. Each system provides different types of verification and imposes different requirements on the user. The systems include: the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) (also known as Pilot Program), ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE), and E-verify.
  • The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act imposes several other important laws. This summary only addresses those especially pertinent to employers.

Disclaimer: This summary does not attempt to offer solutions to any individual problem or to provide legal advice to its readers. Rather, this summary seeks to provide information about a current development in Oklahoma law. Questions about individual problems or requests for legal advice should be addressed to an attorney of your choice.

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Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca represents clients primarily in labor and employment litigation and counsels clients regarding everyday employment matters. 

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