Counties in Utah and Washington Pass E-Verify Employment Eligibility Verification Requirements

In the latest change to the growing patchwork of laws regarding the federal E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system, two counties in Utah and Washington – Washington County, UT and Cowlitz County, WA – have unanimously passed laws requiring the use of the E-Verify system that checks the work authorization status of newly hired workers to ensure that they are legally eligible to work in the United States. These actions follow in step with a May 2011 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a 2007 Arizona law requiring employers to enroll in the voluntary federal E-Verify program.

County commissioners in Washington County, UT enacted ‘ORDINANCE NO. 2011-1014 – AN ORDINANCE AMENDING AND SUPERSEDING WASHINGTON COUNTY CODE TITLE 3, ADDING CHAPTER 5’ that takes effect sixty (60) days after its passage on October 18, 2011. Beginning in mid-December 2011, all businesses in the unincorporated areas of Washington County will be required to confirm the employment eligibility of new hires through the E-Verify system. While the state of Utah currently has E-Verify requirements, there are no penalties for non-compliance other than ineligibility for state contracts and the requirements only apply to businesses with 15 or more employees.

According to an article on (The Daily News Online), county commissioners in Cowlitz County, WA voted to add the requirement that current contractors – and any employer competing for a county contract – must now certify that they have used the E-Verify system to prove that their workers are legal and are “in compliance with federal employment laws” that include, but are not limited to, the use of E-Verify. In addition, the E-Verify requirement applies to any contractor employee who will work on the project no matter how long they have been employed.

As reported earlier in the ESR News blog ‘US Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Mandatory E-Verify Law in Arizona,’ the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in a 5-to-3 decision, that states can punish employers who violate mandatory E-Verify laws (The ruling on the case is available at: In the majority opinion for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Arizona enforces its E-Verify employment verification requirement through licensing laws:

“Arizona’s procedures simply implement the sanctions that Congress expressly allowed the States to pursue through licensing laws. Given that Congress specifically preserved such authority for the States, it stands to reason that Congress did not intend to prevent the States from using appropriate tools to exercise that authority… We hold that Arizona’s licensing law falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states and therefore is not expressly preempted.”

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 makes it “unlawful for a person or other entity… to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for employment in the United States an alien knowing the alien is an unauthorized alien.” Employers that violate that prohibition may be subjected to federal civil and criminal sanctions. IRCA also requires employers to take steps to verify an employee’s eligibility for employment. In an attempt to improve that employment eligibility verification process, Congress created E-Verify, an internet-based system employers can use to check the work authorization status of employees by comparing information on their Employment Eligibility Verification Forms – ‘Form I-9s’ – against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases.

The passing of ordinances mandating E-Verify use in Washington County, UT and Cowlitz County, WA shows that even individual counties are making their own rules regarding E-Verify, and E-Verify regulations are changing not only state by state, but also county by county. These changes are yet another example of the hodge-podge of varying E-Verify requirements that can be confusing to employers. Currently, federal contractors and subcontractors in all states must use E-Verify and many U.S. states have additional mandates on the use of E-Verify by employers. A current E-Verify Legislation Map is available at

Employers may choose to have a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent assist them in maintaining compliance with the E-Verify process. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a nationwide background check company accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – is a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that can help virtually eliminate I-9 form errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. To learn more about ESR’s E-Verify services, visit

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco, CA area,
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit

About ESR News:
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ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, legal risks, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at