Q. A few employees have complained that we use their Social Security numbers as their ID numbers. They're concerned about potential theft of their identity. Is it legal for employers to use Social Security numbers for ID purposes? —D.T., Illinois
A. Technically, it is legal for private employers to use Social Security numbers for identification purposes. In some states, state agencies are specifically prohibited from doing so. Of course, it's wise to take precautions against misuse and to be sensitive to employee concerns about the distribution of these numbers.
Don't publish the numbers widely or use them for anything other than legitimate business purposes. To avoid problems, don't make the numbers visible on timecards or identification badges. Sadly, many cases of identity theft have involved co-workers for whom personal information was too easily available.