Dairy producers have reported receiving Employer Correction Requests from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Commonly called “No-Match” letters, these letters inform employers of mismatches between submitted W-2 form information and SSA records. The “No-Match” letters were implemented in 1993 and discontinued in 2012, only to be resumed this year.
The letters instruct employers to access a list of their affected employees on the SSA’s Business Services Online (BSO) system. To use the BSO system, first complete a one-time registration process at:
Ignoring the letter and failing to take action on the request could result in some jeopardy for the producer.
The letter clarifies that there are many reasons why reported names and social security numbers may not match SSA records such as typographical or clerical errors (such as misspelling a name or transposing a number); unreported name changes (due to marriage, divorce or other reasons); identity theft; inaccurate or incomplete employer records; or transposing of middle or hyphenated last names. In fact, when no-match letters were being sent out in 2006, an SSA analysis reported that out of the estimated 17.8 million records in SSA’s database that would generate a no-match letter, 12.7 million (or over 70 percent of the records with errors) pertained to native-born US citizens.
The SSA also informs recipients that the letter “does not imply that you or your employee intentionally gave the government wrong information about the employee’s name or SSN” and that the letter “does not address your employee’s work authorization or immigration status.”
Receipt of a “No-Match” letter should not cause the producer to take any adverse action against an employee. The letter explicitly warns against such action with this statement:
You should not use this letter to take any adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against that individual, just because his or her SSN or name does not match our records. Any of those actions could, in fact, violate State or Federal law and subject you to legal consequences.
Dairy producers should check their own records for typos or other differences in the farm records. If none are found, the employee should be notified of the request in writing. On its website, the Social Security Administration provides a sample letter that employers can give to employees:
We suggest that employers retain a copy signed by the employee, acknowledging the employee’s receipt of this letter. This could later serve as evidence that the employer did not ignore the letter, but took action
Employees should be given a reasonable amount of time – some sources recommend at least 120 days — to contact SSA to correct any problems with the records. Regularly follow up with the employee to check progress and document these follow ups. If corrected information is available, advise the SSA of the corrections.
In addition to refraining from taking immediate adverse action against the employee, employers should avoid the potentially actionable behavior below.
- Do not attempt to immediately re-verify the employee’s employment eligibility by requesting the completion of a new Form I-9;
- Do not follow different or inconsistent procedures for certain employees based on apparent or perceived national-origin or citizenship status;
- Do not require the affected employee to produce specific documents to address the non-match; and
- Do not ask the affected employee to provide a written report from the SSA or any other agency verifying the employee’s SSN.
Additional resources include the following:
SSA guidance on how to proceed after the issuance of a no-match letter at:
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) provides a list of frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) and answers as well as a toolkit that provides more in-depth information to employers: https://www.nilc.org/issues/workersrights/no-match-letter-toolkit/social-security-no-match-letters-faq/
A private law firm with a number of Midwest locations has posted an updated, detailed article providing guidelines for employers: https://www.reinhartlaw.com/knowledge/social-security-no-match-letters-resume-in-2019/
Of course, all dairy producers and other ag employers should rely on their own team of professionals, including an attorney well-versed in employment law. That attorney will be familiar with each producer’s individual situation and be able to provide legal advice tailored to the needs and circumstances of that producer.
This article was co-authored by Fred M. Hall, ISUEO Dairy Field Specialist and Melissa R. O’Rourke, ISUEO Attorney: Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist.