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Were You Fired or Denied Pay Because Your Employer Received a SSN ‘No Match’ Letter? That May Be a Violation of the Law in New Jersey

There are certain employment practices that are obviously discriminatory. An employer who openly refuses to hire any LGBT+ person, a supervisor who jokes about all Mexicans being lazy or an HR manager who opines that “pregnancy always makes a woman crazy” are all obvious things. A lot of instances of discrimination aren’t nearly this obvious. Something as seemingly benign (and non-discriminatory) as a letter from the federal government about a worker’s employment eligibility verification paperwork can be the trigger for that employer to engage in illegal practices. If your employer has taken adverse employment action against you (such as forcing you onto unpaid leave or firing you) because it received a “no match” letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), your employer may have violated the law. Contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney promptly to find out what you can do.

In March 2019, the federal government began sending “Employer Correction Request” notices, which are often more commonly known as “no match” letters, to employers. This March, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Department of Labor and the Attorney General published a joint “Dear Employer” guidance letter to provide employers and employees with useful information and to help employers steer clear of actions that potentially violate New Jersey law.

On the federal employment eligibility verification form, also known as the I-9 form, is something that most all of us have filled out at some point when starting a new job. An employee discloses their name and Social Security number. “No match” letters, which the federal government stopped entirely in 2012 but restarted last year, are letters from the Social Security Administration that inform an employer that the name and the number contained on an employee’s I-9 form don’t match.

There are, of course, many reasons a name and a Social Security number on an I-9 form might not match, but some employers may assume from a “no match” letter that that employee is an undocumented worker, and seek to take action on that basis.

Feds: Letters offer no info about a worker’s ‘work authorization or immigration status’

The federal government issued clear guidance that employers should avoid firing or taking negative action against a worker based solely on a “no match” letter. The Immigrant and Employee Rights section of the federal Justice Department has informed employers that engaging in that kind of practice could qualify as “an unfair documentary practice or evidence of discrimination based on citizenship, national original or immigration status.”

Employers also cannot require workers to take extra steps to prove their status in order keep their jobs. Doing so also potentially represents illegal discrimination.

No-match letter-triggered action by employers may violate New Jersey laws

In New Jersey, there are many “no match” letter-related things that your employer can do to you that potentially violate state law. As the state’s guidance letter indicated, if your employer improperly withholds wages that you have earned because of a “no match” letter, then that action possibly violated the state’s Wage Payment Law.

Additionally, terminations or other adverse actions that were triggered by an employer’s receipt of a “no match” letter may be proof of that employer’s violation of state law. For example, if your employer has taken a negative employment action against you based solely on the employer’s knowledge that you were born outside the United States and that the SSA issued a “no match” letter on you, then that action by your employer potentially constitutes national origin discrimination in violation of the Law Against Discrimination.

Furthermore, if your employer is not consistent with the way it handles “no match” letters, then that also may be a proof of a violation of the statute. For example, if your employer immediately suspends or fires all workers from Mexico or Central America on whom it receives a “no match” letter, but takes no immediate action against other employees on whom it receives a “no match” letter, evidence of that may amount to a winning case of race, national origin or immigration status discrimination.

There are lots of ways that employers can engage in illegal discrimination. Some are obvious, but many are much less so. If you think that your employer fired you, suspended you or took other negative action against you because of something like your race, national origin or immigration status, let legal professionals help you get to the bottom of it, and help you get the compensation you deserve. The skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates have spent many years dedicated to helping harmed workers use the legal system to overcome illegal discrimination and harassment. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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