Avoiding Errors in the Match Game: Responding to the Rising Number of “No-Match” Letters
Starting late last year and continuing on the heels of tax season, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been sending employers Employer Correction Request Notices, also known as EDCOR notices or “no-match” letters. An example “no-match” letter is available at the SSA’s website. These “no-match” letters notify an employer that the information submitted on an employee’s W-2, such as the Social Security Number or SSN, does not match the SSA’s records. Even though it’s not conclusive evidence that an employee is not authorized to work in the United States, it can put an employer on notice of a possible issue, which can lead to potential compliance issues and liability under federal law. See our previous discussion here and here on recent Form I-9 compliance issues.
Of course, common discrepancies can also trigger a “no-match” letter, such as unreported name changes, typos or input errors by the SSA, reporting errors by an employer or employee, errors in recognizing multiple last names or hyphenated last names, or identity theft.
In other words, “no-match” letters can arise because of simple administrative errors. Employers should not presume the “no-match” letter conveys information about an employee’s immigration status or authorization to work within the United States. Still, the “no-match” letters may also indicate that an individual provided false identification.
Employers must be cautious when dealing with a “no-match” letter. An overreaction—such as requesting excessive or unnecessary documentation from employees—can violate the anti-discrimination provisions in federal law, which generally prohibit discriminatory employment practices because an employee’s national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. Thus, an employer should not attempt to do any of the following after receiving a “no-match” letter:
- Take any adverse employment action against an employee subject to a “no-match” letter, including—but not limited to—firing, demoting, cutting hours, reducing the wages of, or writing up such an employee;
- Follow different procedures for different classes of employees based on the employees’ respective national origin or citizenship status;
- Require the employee immediately provide a written report that the SSA verified the requisite information (primarily because the SSA may not ever provide such a report);
- Immediately reverify the employee’s eligibility to work by requesting a new Form I-9 based solely on the “no-match” letter; or
- Require an employee produce any specific I-9 documents, such as a Social Security card, to address the no-match issue.
The question then becomes: How should employer respond to a “no-match” letter?
Unfortunately, the letters usually do not identify the employees for whom the SSA finds there is a “no-match” issue. To determine which employees’ information is at issue, an employer must first register with the SSA’s Business Service Online website. Through that website, an employer can then compare the employee names and SSN information in its files against the SSA’s records to make sure the information was correctly submitted, and no typographical error occurred. If an employer determines it misreported the information, it can issue a correction through an updated IRS Form W-2C. An employer generally has 60 days from receipt of the “no-match” letter to issue a Form W-2C to make corrections if that is the cause of the “no-match.”
Should an employer determine that it properly reported the information, then the employer will need to further investigate and may want to seek guidance from counsel before taking further action.