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Social Security Number requirement in applications Federal

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  • Social Security Number requirement in applications Federal

    Can anyone give me citation to legal authority that either prohibits or otherwise allows an employer to require an employee applicant to disclose his social security number? In my case, the employer is a state agency. I understand that by giving me legal authority you are not giving me legal advice. I will look up the authority on Westlaw for myself and make my own decisions and take subsequent responsibility.

    I am aware of the 1974 Privacy Act, and at least two of its statutory exceptions...but none of that is very black and white, nor necessarily specifically focused on ss#s in application to employment applications.

  • #2
    The only references I am able to locate are for private sector businesses. For the private sector, it is legal to ask for social security number on a job application. This does not mean that employer's are required to do so.

    I understand that due to privacy concerns and identity theft, some states (such as California, Missouri and Virginia) have taken steps to introduce legislation on restricting the use of SSNs over the internet and for tracking purposes.

    If you could provide some more information on where you are leading with your inquiry, maybe we can provide additional insight or suggestions.


    • #3
      thanks for your reply. This would be in Washington State. I need to know if a Washington state agency can legally require an employee applicant, applying to work for that state agency, to disclose his/her ss# in the application.

      Like I've said, I've found a lot of authority that is in the grey area. For instance, it looks like with the Tax Reform of 1976 that an employer can require this once they have hired the employee. Grey, grey, grey.

      If anyone can shed more light on my problem, I'd appreciate it. Any authority will do, not just WA state. Thanks.


      • #4
        I suppose the reason you are having difficulty finding such specific legislation is that it may not exist. Is there a particular reason you are concerned about by disclosing your SSN on a job application?


        • #5
          I am not necessarily looking for legislation. Case law, House/Senate Reports...even secondary sources like American Jurisprudence would work just fine.


          • #6
            Here is a link to a job application for the state of Texas: I know you mentioned the state of Washington. There is a disclosure on the final page the SSN is optional and is used for tracking purposes only.

            Here is a link to a job application for the state of Kansas: Again I understand you are in Washington. Kansas, like Texas, makes the SSN optional and uses for tracking purposes only.

            Here is a link to a job application for the state of Washington: It's optional here also. Looks like they are using the data for EEO tracking only. This is a recent change implemented by the EEOC on some employers. I suspect that it will be rolled out to all employers in the foreseeable future.

            I suspect the job you are considering applying for is doing the same.


            • #7
              Just a thought, but some employers run background checks for certain positions prior to making a hiring decision. I would imagine that legal name, SSN and birth date would be useful to run a background check. My understanding is that some states have restrictions on background checks but many or most states do not. I suspect that there are threads on background checks on this board.
              "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
              Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


              • #8
                DAW, good point! Often the prospective employer will require a release for a background check. Such a release may be included in the application package.


                • #9
                  And if the prospective employer is a State Agency, I would be more than surprised if a complete background check, most especially criminal background check, were not done. Although I ma certainly not an expert, it is my understanding that the most accurate checks require a SSN.


                  • #10
                    refusal to supply ssn

                    A lot of public (and private) employers make the provision of any personal information optional for an applicant. In other words, you can not be compelled to put your ssn on an application for employment.

                    Flip that coin over...

                    Employers who can not obtain information concerning applicants may be disinclined to offer them positions.


                    • #11
                      Thank you all for your responses. On behalf of the agency, they would like to know if they "can require" an applicant to disclose his/her ss#.
                      As I said, it looks grey. There are a number of exceptions to the 1974 Privacy Act, and for the most part, the case law interprets the exceptions fairly broadly. So, it looks pretty good for the agency right now.

                      I am also going to investigate law to further beef up the argument where a state agency may have been sued for NOT requiring a social security number (e.g., they hired a criminal who later caused problems).

                      Anyhow, thanks for your responses.


                      • #12
                        I do not think ther is a law that precludes an employer from requiring a SSN during the hiring process or as a condition of hire.

                        The example you cited is a very good reason for the lack of such a law because any employer, public or private, would certainly be subject to a claim of negligent hiring if the lack of a reasonable background check resulted in a tort against a member of the public.