Thursday, January 29, 2015

Court Rules Employer Allowed to Require Employee SSN, Despite Religious Objection

Can an employer demand that employees provide their Social Security number as a condition of employment, even where an employee lodges an objection on the basis of their religion?

Yes, according to a recent decision, Yeager v. FirstEnergy Generation Corp., issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The employee in this case claimed he was wrongfully terminated (or not hired) after he refused to provide his SSN, claiming that he had "disclaimed and disavowed" his SSN on the basis of a sincere religious belief.  He then sued for discrimination on the basis of his religion under Title VII and Ohio law.

The trial court dismissed the claims, and the 6th Circuit affirmed.  The basis of the court's decision was that while Title VII and Ohio law require an employer to make reasonable accommodation of an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs, the proposed accommodation here -- allowing an employee to refuse to provide a SSN -- was not reasonable, because federal law requires every employer to collect employee Social Security numbers for tax reporting purposes.

--Jonathan Nadler

--Jon Nadler