In July 2002, a law took effect restricting the display of consumer Social Security numbers (SSNs) by California businesses. Although the law wasn't targeted at the workplace, it had implications for employers' use and display of worker SSNs. On Jan. 1, 2004, a follow-up law will further limit SSN use in mailings. Here's what you need to know.
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New Mailing Restrictions
The 2002 law bars California businesses from printing an individual's SSN on anything mailed to that person unless one of the following exceptions applies: 1) the business is required by law to use the SSN, or 2) the mailed document is a form or application, is to establish, amend, or terminate an account, contract, or policy, or is to confirm the accuracy of the SSN.
The new legislation, however, provides that even if an SSN is permitted on a mailed document, you cannot:
Note that for employees hired before July 2002, you can continue to use their SSN in a way that's inconsistent with these privacy laws, including the new mailing restriction, provided your use was continuous and began before July 2002, you provide an annual notice explaining to employees they have the right to stop any prohibited usage, and you stop such use within 30 days of receiving a written request to do so.
Public Employers Included
The 2002 SSN privacy rules didn't apply to state and local agencies. But the new law eliminates this exemption. Thus, all of the existing provisions and the new mailing restrictions apply to public employers as of January 1. However, there are different phase-in dates for some public entities, including the University of California, the California community college districts, and the California State University system.