Employers, particularly larger ones, may have difficulty keeping its records straight for employees with more common names. Even middle initials may not help sufficiently. When considering a unique identifier, a company might consider using the employee’s Social Security number.
Minnesota employers considering that option should first consider the limitations on their use or disclosure of social security numbers. Minnesota law provides that an employer may not: (i) intentionally post or display publicly in any manner an individual’s Social Security number; (ii) print an individual’s Social Security number on any card required for access to products or services; (iii) require an individual to transmit a Social Security number over the Internet (unless the number is securely encrypted); (iv) generally require a person to use their Social Security number to access an Internet website; (v) print a number that the employer knows to be an individual’s Social Security number on any materials that are mailed to the person (unless required by state or federal law); (vi) assign or use a number as the primary account identifier that is identical to or incorporates an individual’s complete Social Security number (except in conjunction with an employee retirement or benefit plan or human resource or payroll administration); or (vii) sell Social Security numbers. Minn. Stat. § 325E.59, subd. 1.
While Social Security numbers may be included in certain applications and forms sent by mail, including the Social Security number on the outside of a mailing is prohibited. In addition, an employer must restrict access to Social Security numbers so that only its employees, agents or contractors who require access to records containing the numbers in order to perform their jobs will have access to the numbers. Minn. Stat. § 325E.59, subd. 1. On the other hand, use of Social Security numbers for internal verification or administrative purposes is permissible, as well as use required by state or federal law. Minn. Stat. § 325E.59, subd. 2.
Takeaway: Minnesota employers should carefully guard the confidentiality of employees’ Social Security numbers and be mindful of the specific restrictions imposed by Minnesota law.