By Stacey Sommerhauser, SPHR, PHRca, SHRM-SCP
Social Security No-Match letters aren’t new. If you were in HR or Payroll in the last 10-15 years you’ve seen these letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in years past notifying you that you have an employee with a name or Social Security number (SSN) which does not match the records of the SSA. The SSA states the educational letters have resumed to improve the accuracy of the wage reporting process and alert employers of a no-match. The wage information employers provide on a W2 is used to determine the eligibility for, and the amount of, Social Security benefits a worker may receive. The SSA further states that it will not take any action for employers’ non-compliance with the letters and there aren’t SSA-related consequences. However, please read on.
There are many reasons for a No-Match letter and many of the reasons have nothing to do with an employee’s immigration status. A No-Match letter could be the cause of an unreported name change due to marriage, divorce or naturalization; input errors by SSA staff; reporting errors by an employer or employee; identity theft; errors in properly reporting hyphenated names or surnames; and fraud.
Last month we sent out an APB to our clients of what to do if you receive one of these letters. The step by step instructions to find and resolve errors if you receive a notice haven’t changed and can be found by clicking here. However, we have some important Do’s and Don’ts from the U.S. Department of Justice to share with you:
- Recognize that name/SSN no-matches can result because of simple administrative errors.
- Check the reported no-match information against your personnel records.
- Inform the employee of the no-match notice.
- Ask the employee to confirm his/her name/SSN reflected in your personnel records.
- Advise the employee to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to correct and/or update his or her SSA records.
- Give the employee a reasonable period of time to address a reported no-match with the local SSA office.
- Follow the same procedures for all employees regardless of citizenship status or national origin.
- Periodically meet with or otherwise contact the employee to learn and document the status of the employee’s efforts to address and resolve the no-match.
- Review any document the employee chooses to offer showing resolution of the no-match.
- Submit any employer or employee corrections to the SSA.
- Assume the no-match conveys information regarding the employee’s immigration status or actual work authority.
- Use the receipt of a no-match notice alone as a basis to terminate, suspend or take other adverse action against the employee.
- Attempt to immediately reverify the employee’s employment eligibility by requesting the completion of a new Form I-9 based solely on the no-match notice.
- Follow different procedures for different classes of employees based on national origin or citizenship status.
- Require the employee to produce specific I-9 documents to address the no-match.
- Require the employee to provide a written report of SSA verification (as it may not always be obtainable).
Keep in mind an employer who receives one of these letters should not assume the employee referenced in the letter is not authorized to work and therefore, an employer should not take adverse action against the employee. If you do take adverse action against an employee you could be violating anti-discrimination laws.
Employers should check internal personnel records of the employee referenced in the letter. If the Company’s internal records match, the next step would be to notify the employee of the No-Match letter. The SSA has created an initial sample letter that employers may provide to employees, which can be found by clicking here. This sample letter instructs the employee to check his/her name and SSN as stated on the Social Security card against the employer’s internal personnel records. If the information does not match then the employee should provide the employer with the exact information. If the information matches the employee will need to rectify the situation with the local Social Security office. In which case, the employer should instruct the employee to visit the local Social Security office to research the reason for the error.
After an employer instructs the employee to rectify the No-Match with the SSA, the employer’s obligations are not over, employers still have an obligation to follow up. We recommend employers document the steps taken with the employee to rectify the No-Match and follow up with the employee to see if he/she has been able to determine why there was an error. We recommend following up with the employee within about 30 days.
When the employee informs an employer of changes or corrections or the employer identifies errors (usually typographical) in reporting information, the employer should make the corrections on a W-2c (click here for a link to the form) and file this form with the SSA. There may also be other internal documents that must be correct so review your internal records closely.
Please give us a call if you have any questions.