Employers who utilize the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system to verify new employees’ work authorization have long struggled with one glaring deficiency in that program, namely that it does not alert employers to the use of a single otherwise valid social security number by multiple persons. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that E-Verify now has taken a step in the right direction and has the ability to lock down certain social security numbers in the E-Verify system.
According to the DHS announcement, a social security number will be “locked” if analysis, algorithms and detection reports cause the DHS to conclude that a social security number appears to have been misused. Where an employer submits a social security number that has been locked, a tentative non-conformation will be issued and employment will not be authorized. The affected employee will then be required to go to the nearest local office of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) to prove their identity. The SSA then would notify the DHS, if the identity was verified, so that it could unlock the number in their system. The employee involved could then return to the employer for a re-application and confirmation through E-Verify.
It is unknown, at this point in time, whether this modification to the system represents a significant step forward. The announcement issued by the DHS does not identify the “analysis, algorithms and detection reports,” to be used and so their precise application and operation are something of a mystery. Employers have, for years, been asking why this process was not applied when two or more employees, perhaps in different parts of the U.S. are using the same social security number. It had been the position of the DHS that locking duplicate numbers could cause discrimination with respect to the number’s actual owner. It is also unknown as to whether the existence of more than one employee using a single social security number will be sufficient to lock that number down. In that light, the actual application of this just announced modification remains to be seen.