NJ to employers: Don’t break the law over Social Security notices
Following the reintroduction of a federal-government practice that had been shelved for more than a decade, New Jersey officials are reminding companies about the state's law against discrimination as it relates to firing workers or dishing out other disciplinary measures.
Guidance from the state concerns so-called "no-match" letters sent by the U.S. Social Security Administration, to tens of thousands of employers nationwide, flagging discrepancies between some of their employees' names and social security numbers.
Noting the move has been criticized by dozens of members of Congress as a veiled attempt to target immigrant workers, the state has released guidance advising employers to avoid disciplining an employee based solely on the fact the worker's name appears in a no-match letter.
"Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, taking any adverse action against an employee based on an assumption about that employee's national origin or race or ethnicity would be illegal," said Rachel Wainer Apter, director of the Division on Civil Rights.
The Division issued the guidance to employers along with the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
"The federal government had stopped sending these letters in 2007 out of concern that they were causing confusion and were causing employers to take adverse action based on assumptions, but then they went ahead and resumed sending them in March of 2019," Apter added.
In an emailed statement to New Jersey 101.5, a spokesperson for the SSA said it's committed to maintaining the accuracy of earnings records that are used to determine benefit amounts. When earnings are missing, a worker may not qualify for Social Security benefits, or the benefit amount may be incorrect.
A sample "Employer Correction Request" from the SSA specifically states to employers that it "does not address your employee's work authorization or immigration status," and reminds employers that immediate discipline could violate state or federal law.
Apter noted employers do have the option of reverifying workers' information and status, should a no-match letter arrive, but the same must be done for all employees mentioned in the letter.
"We will enforce the law according to its terms, and we will not tolerate wage theft or discriminatory practices against workers of any national origin, nationality, race or ethnicity," the guidance letter reads.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.