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Growers should keep an eye out for “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration, which warn employers that the agency has found that at least one name or Social Security number submitted in 2018 does not match records.

Officially known as Employer Correction Requests, the letters issued this spring are the first to be sent in many years, after the Trump Administration decided to reinstate the practice which was discontinued in 2012.

The Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development program warns that receipt of such letters is considered “constructive knowledge” that an employee might not be working legally. SSA also shares this information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so it could be used during audits.

“Essentially, ‘constructive knowledge’ is a legal term indicating that a reasonable person, given the facts and information available to them, should be able to infer that the employee is not authorized to work,” Cornell agricultural workforce specialist Richard Stup wrote in a recent blog post on the topic. “Employers who knowingly employ individuals who are not authorized to work are in violation of current immigration laws and are in jeopardy for fines and criminal prosecution.”

In the past, the SSA provided a “safe harbor” process that allowed employers to hold off legal consequences while they addressed the issues, but that no longer exists.

But it’s important to note that the letters are not directly addressing the issue of work authorization or immigration status. Firing an employee based on only the no-match letter could be construed as discrimination. There may be a simple typo or name change that prompted the letter.

The letters no longer contain the names and numbers that contain discrepancies, so employers will have to log into the SSA’s Business Services website to find the information and make corrections if warranted.

“If the employer finds no typographical or clerical error, then you will have to involve the employee in resolving the discrepancy,” Stup said. “Finally, document all of your business actions to show that you took reasonable steps to address and resolve the matter.”

To read Stup’s blog post on the Cornell website, click here.

—by Kate Prengaman