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Can employers request an applicant's Social Security number on an employment application?

When requesting information on an application for employment, employers should be sure that the information requested is job-related. Generally, employers should not request a Social Security number (SSN) on an employment application as the SSN is not directly related to an applicant's ability to perform a specific job and applications are often viewed by individuals who do not have a need to know this information.

Due to identify theft and general privacy issues, employers should avoid requesting unnecessary information and then sharing it inadvertently with hiring managers or others. As a general practice, employers should request a SSN from an applicant only when absolutely necessary. For example, when conducting a background check before an offer of employment, an employer can collect a SSN on a separate background check authorization form rather than the employment application.

Once an individual is hired, employers will need employee Social Security numbers for payroll and benefit purposes. Safeguards should be in place to keep SSNs confidential, and employers should implement procedures for the safe disposal of this information. It is also important to understand state laws. Some states have specific requirements for transmitting SSNs over the Internet or printing SSNs on information that will be sent by mail, for example. 


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