Employee: “Hi, Ms. HR Manager, here’s my new Social Security Number. And I also have a new work authorization document.”

Ms. HR Manager: “Huh, you’ve worked here three years. This Social Security Number is different from the one on your Form I-9. Is it Friday yet?”

You may have encountered this situation in the workplace already. A long-time employee comes to you to report a new Social Security Number or maybe a new name. The new SSN does not match the Social Security Card the employee presented as his or her proof of work authorization at the time of hire. Now what?

It is quite likely that the above scenario will play itself out more frequently under President Obama’s executive order. Among other things, the executive order will temporarily suspend removal, i.e., deportation, for certain individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States but who have a child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an estimated five million undocumented individuals in the United States are allowed to remain temporarily and are given work authorization, there is a good chance that some of those individuals are already in the American workplace, using someone else’s Social Security number.

The scenario raises thorny issues for the employer. The employee is now authorized to work in the United States, but she probably wasn’t when she started working for your company. Did the employee present false documents at the time of hire? What should be the consequences for that dishonesty? Will employers be permitted to terminate employees under the executive order? What actions, if any, does the employer have to take to notify the IRS and Social Security Administration that it has been withholding and reporting wages under an incorrect Social Security Number? If you use E-Verify, do you have to update the employee’s records in E-Verify and what are the consequences of changing crucial employee data?

The USCIS is tasked with developing regulations to implement President Obama’s executive order. Hopefully, the regulations will address the scenario raised above. If not, Ms. HR Manager may be putting in for some of that unlimited vacation time Kara Nickel blogged about a few weeks ago.