The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) recently announced that in 2019, it will restart its mismatch letter notification program.  Through “mismatch” letters, formally titled “Employer Correction Requests,” the SSA notifies employers that the social security number (“SSN”) and name reported for one or more employees does not match SSA records.  These notification letters advise employers that a SSN mismatch is not an assumption of SSN falsification or other misconduct.  Mismatches can be caused by typographical errors, unreported name changes, incomplete records, or SSN misuse.  In any event, employers who receive such letters must act promptly and are advised to document the steps taken to resolve the discrepancy. 

Mismatch letters will instruct employers to register for the Business Services Online (“BSO”) database, which contains the Employer Report Status where employers can learn the names and SSNs that are mismatched.  The SSA directs employers to correct the mismatched information within sixty (60) days of receiving the mismatch letter.

The SSA website includes steps on how to correct mismatches.  As an early part of this process, employers who receive a mismatch letter should check their personnel records for the affected employees to confirm that the information in company records matches that provided by the SSA.  Simple typographical errors or name discrepancies that led to a mismatch generally can be rectified quickly by submitting this information to the SSA.  In the event the mismatch is not based on employer error, the employer should notify each affected employee of the mismatch, preferably in writing.  The SSA website contains a sample letter for this purpose.  Employees must then resolve the mismatch.  However, employers will remain responsible for ensuring the process is complete.  To do so, employers may follow up with each affected employee to confirm the steps they are taking and that a resolution does occur.  Again, employer documentation of these steps is recommended.

It is important that employers not take adverse employment action (including formal discipline, termination, or informal forms of negative treatment) against employees solely based upon the notice that a mismatch has occurred.  Employers must allow time for the employee to address and resolve the mismatch.  Employers also must ensure they do not treat different classes of employees differently in the event more than one mismatch is reported.  In the event a mismatch cannot be resolved or SSN misuse is confirmed, employers should contact legal counsel to determine the appropriate steps to take with regard to the involved employee.