Do we have to get permission to use our workers’ Social Security numbers?

Our company uses an online brokerage firm to manage our company’s equity stock awards. Our new stock administrator asked if should obtain authorization to use an employee’s social security number when setting up their account. When is an employer required to obtain an employee’s authorization to use their SS#? I would think that since this is used for business purpose/ administering a benefit that we would not need to get an authorization. Your thoughts?

Posted  04-06-2011

Ann Kiernan replies:

I think that the best practice is to always get a written authorization to use an employee’s Social Security number, even if you are sure that the employee will agree. Also, given the prevalence of identity theft, be sure that all Social Security numbers are treated with the utmost care and confidentiality. In addition, be aware that many states have laws that generally prohibit businesses, including employers, from posting or publicly displaying an individual’s Social Security number, using such numbers on identification cards, requiring the transmittal of employee Social Security numbers over the Internet except via a secure, encrypted connection, and mailing any document containing a Social Security number unless the Social Security number is required by law to be placed on the document.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.