No doubt you’ve read recent accounts about the prevalence of identity theft and the use of Social Security numbers to obtain fraudulent credit cards and other documents. But the rise in such crimes does not excuse employees from giving their Social Security numbers to employers.
You can and must insist on getting Social Security numbers, and you needn’t fear a lawsuit if you refuse to hire (or later fire) new employees who don’t provide the information.
Recent case: John McCauley got a job as a computer help-desk analyst, but he didn’t supply his Social Security number on his application as requested. Then, he asked the recruiting manager whether he could skip providing the number even on his I-9 form. McCauley was apparently concerned that turning over his Social Security number might make him more susceptible to identity theft.
When he refused to cough up the number, the company fired him for not meeting the hiring criteria. He sued, alleging he had been discriminated against because of his nationality—American. One of his arguments was that foreign employees, who come in to work with a visa, don’t have to supply a Social Security number. He also said providing the number violated his right to privacy.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out his case. It reasoned that employers need the Social Security number to comply with various tax and immigration laws and have no choice but to require it. (McCauley v. Salvaggio, et al., No. 06-4089, 3rd Cir., 2007)
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