Employment Verification Systems: A Benefit to Employers and Immigration Reform OR A Violation of Privacy?

With the debate about illegal immigration raging on, people on both sides of the political spectrum are rushing to come up with solutions. While support for most ideas is divided on party lines, one solution that has seen bipartisan support is employment verification. In fact, 2012 presidential candidates Obama and Romney both support the use of an employment verification system, such as the government’s E-Verify system.

E-Verify is a free government internet program. Employee information is compared to government records, and if there is a discrepancy, the employee must resolve the issue in order to be eligible for the job (or to continue working). E-Verify was originally created in 1997 and the website currently reports that over 409,000 employers have used the system.

Given the demand for employment verification, there has been a flood of other verification systems in recent years. While E-Verify is used solely to verify employment eligibility, these alternative employment verification systems can confirm hire and termination dates, title, detailed income information and more.

Leading the way in this category is Equifax, a company that offers employment verification services to employers through a program called The Work Number. Equifax holds a majority share of the verification industry, but smaller companies are also vying for a piece of the action. Some examples are Verify Job System, Pre Check, and EmpInfo.

EmpInfo is a cloud-based service that went live in May, 2013. Similar to Equifax, it offers services for both verifiers and employers.

  • Employers can sign up for free, allowing EmpInfo to manage their verification requests. This means you don’t have to waste time and money dealing with requests from banks, landlords, and other companies who need to verify employment information and wages for your current and past employees. Once you sign up, these requests are handled by EmpInfo.
  • While Equifax charges a fee for this service, it is free for employers to sign up for EmpInfo. In fact, they have said that in the future they may even consider a revenue-sharing system.
  • If you need to verify employment information for a new hire, you can pay a small fee to access this data on EmpInfo. You must be approved as a verifier first, and state your reason for needing the information. When you’re approved, the data is available instantly, 24×7, even on mobile devices.

EmpInfo is a small business rival of Equifax, seeking to create a large employment verification database to make the verification process simple and fast. However, some argue that the Equifax and similar databases are a violation of privacy.

Critics say that detailed income information should remain private. Verification companies like Equifax have the power to sell your income history to any company that has a ‘valid’ reason. Beyond future employers, landlords and banks who may offer you a loan, this includes a most loathed group – debt collectors.

What do you think? Are employment verification systems a good idea, one that will help with immigration and benefit small businesses? Or are they a threat to, or even a violation of, an individual’s right to privacy?

We’d love to hear what you think. Add your comments below.

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Jennifer Peaslee

Jennifer has a Masters in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor, blogger and researcher.

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