It’s a routine part of the morning. Before you answer your voicemail or log into your computer, you open the mail. From the return address on the first envelope in the stack, you realize it is not such a typical morning after all. The return address states the communication is from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The government is reporting that one of your employees has a social security number that does not match their records. What do you do now? Some employers may think they can ignore it, while others may believe that they must fire the employee immediately. Neither of these actions is the right one.
There has been a lot of confusion about what an employer’s obligation is when they receive a “no match” letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that they have an employee whose name does not match the social security number in the system. Much of the confusion has stemmed from the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rules.
Historically, the no match letters were sent by SSA for the sole purpose of matching names to Social Security numbers to ensure that payments are properly credited. The proposed new regulations, if finalized, and pending legislation, would have serious potential implications for employers because they are based on border security concerns and the SSA no-match information would be shared with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is responsible for coordinating apprehension of illegal aliens.
There has been a ground swell of feedback from organizations, both business and labor, who have disagreed with the proposed rules, which have not yet been finalized. So, until that time, the old rules apply. Your best course of action when you receive a “no match” letter is to avoid taking any adverse action against an employee. The letter specifically states that it is “not a basis, in and of itself, for the employer to take any adverse action against the employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against any individual who appears on the list”.
You should not however, ignore the “no match” letter. Investigate the matter. Make sure that the company did not make a typographical error in reporting the employee’s social security number. If there is an error, write a letter submitting the correct number to the SSA. If you don’t find an error you should share the “no match” letter with the employee and ask him or her to verify that what you have submitted is correct. You should not require the employee to produce a social security card or other specific documentation, as this could be considered document abuse under employment eligibility verification laws. You should ask the employee to investigate and get the error corrected, giving them a reasonable amount of time. Ask them to keep you posted on the progress. If there is an error, correct the employee’s Form I-9 and submit the correct information to the SSA. Of course you should treat all employees who receive a no match letter consistently without regard to race, national origin or citizenship status.
If an employee verifies that the information given is correct ask them if they can think of any other reason for the “no match” letter. If they have no other explanation, write a letter to the SSA explaining that the company has re-verified that the information submitted to the SSA is correct and that you have no explanation for the discrepancy. If the employee admits to a false social security number and is actually unauthorized to work in the United States, you must immediately terminate the employee’s employment.