After a hiatus, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that "No Match" letters will return this spring. These informational notices are sent to employers who submit wage and tax statements with a name and social security number that do not correspond to SSA records. Officially titled as "Employer Correction Request Notice" and commonly known as a "No Match" letter, they are designed to inform employers of the discrepancy in the hopes that they will clear it up, which can sometimes be done easily (e.g., a misspelled name, transposed number or name change due to marriage).
However, resolving a discrepancy may raise concerns about compliance with the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification and potentially lead to a discovery of employment of an unauthorized worker. Historically, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took the position that a mismatch could lead to a finding of an employer's constructive knowledge of unauthorized employment. Employers are, therefore, well advised to take these letters seriously, but should be cautious to avoid practices that may be viewed as discrimination based on citizenship, national origin or immigration status. Employment actions against employees such as layoffs, terminations or suspensions are examples of adverse actions by employers which may violate state or federal law and subject them to legal consequences.
The SSA provides online assistance with resolving mismatches, including a sample letter to provide to employees, and other instructions. However, the SSA's guidance does not address the I-9 compliance issues that may be presented by receipt of a No Match letter. Any investigation of an unresolved mismatch should be handled carefully, with due regard to the employee's protections against discrimination. Guidance from the government for navigating these issues (from a previous era of No Match letters) can be found here.