Can Applicants Refuse to Disclose their SSN?

In order to do a complete and comprehensive background check for potential employees, most companies request Social Security Numbers (SSN.)

But what happens if an applicant refuses to disclose their SSN? 


It’s important that your company have a policy in place regarding SSN Disclosure. Depending on whether your company is hiring employees or volunteers, your policy may differ.

For employees—there is no way around SSN Disclosure. Providing a Social Security Number is an important step in the background check process. It provides information that Name and Date of Birth simply would not. And according to the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, companies are allowed to require SSN disclosure for various reasons. There are no legal protections that allow applicants to refuse to provide their SSN.

For volunteers—it can depend on your company’s views. It is not 100% necessary to require your volunteers to disclose. However, like we stated above, Social Security Numbers give you access to information about potential volunteers that you may need. If you do not require volunteers to disclose you cannot, however, obtain certain types of reports, e.g. Social Security Number Trace Reports, some County Criminal Reports, etc. A lot of reports just simply cannot be run without SSNs.

For potential employees, it is not “illegal” to require them to disclose their SSN. And in order to protect your business and employees, it is necessary. For potential volunteers, it will depend on your company’s policy and which type of reports you want to run.

Background checks can be tricky and with so many laws and regulations it can be hard to keep track. The best response to an applicant not disclosing their SSN, is to follow your company’s policy and consult with a company lawyer. And since an applicant’s Social Security Number is not protected under current law, it can be required.



NOTE: The contents of this article are not legal advice for your particular situation. You should neither act nor rely upon anything stated in this article without first consulting your own legal counsel.