<New Laws Regarding The Confidentiality And Disclosure Of Social Security Numbers Take Effect In New York


Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson LLP
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November 16, 2012

New Laws Regarding The Confidentiality And Disclosure Of Social Security Numbers Take Effect In New York

On December 12, 2012, the second of two amendments to the New York General Business Law (“NYSGBL”), which were signed into law on August 14, 2012 by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will go into effect. The amendments aim to further protect the confidentiality of employees’ Social Security Numbers (“SSNs”). 

The December 12th amendment prohibits employers from requiring their employees, without the employees’ consent, to provide their SSNs, “for any purpose in connection with any activity.” Additionally, employers may not penalize employees for refusing to provide their SSNs, by refusing these employees any privileges or rights or services.

The amendment is subject to a number of exceptions. State and political subdivisions may require their employees to provide SSNs. Any employer (not only of state and political subdivisions) may require disclosure of SSNs if a federal, state, or local law or regulation requires such a disclosure. If the employer makes the request for employment purposes, such as in administration of benefits or claims related to the employee’s employment, the employer is exempted and may require the employee to disclose his or her SSN. For example, if an individual becomes injured while working, the employer may require him to provide his SSN to process any claims related to his or her injury.

An employer may also require the employee to disclose his or her SSN for an investigative or lawful consumer report, conducted by a third party consumer reporting agency.  Employers may also require provision of SSNs to see whether the employee has a criminal record. Employers may not, however, request SSNs for other pre-employment background checks, such as motor vehicle records and educational background checks.

Finally, an employer may require an employee to disclose his or her SSN if the employee has previously consented to use of his SSN. In such scenarios, the employer must still abide by existing confidentiality laws regarding disclosure of SSNs, including the prohibition against providing the number to the general public; and the prohibition against requiring the individual to send his SSN over the internet without a secure connection. For information regarding other protections afforded to employee SSNs, see:  http://www.putneylaw.com/cu_022808.html.

For employers who violate this amendment, the maximum civil penalty for the first offense is $500, and $1000 for any subsequent offenses. If the employer can show that the offense resulted from a “bona fide error made notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adopted to avoid such error,” and show that the violation was unintentional, the employer can avoid these penalties.

We invite your questions regarding the effects of these amendments to the NYSGBL.