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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.

Title VII: Religion/Social Security Numbers

July 14, 2003


This is in response to your letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) dated June 19, 2003, which was a follow-up letter to the one you sent on April 24, 2003. The Office of the Chair has asked this office to respond directly to you.

Your June 19th letter re-iterates your position that you should not have to provide a social security number to your employer. As we explained in our response to your previous letter, the EEOC's authority is limited to enforcing federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq.). Again, EEOC has no jurisdiction over tax or social security law and cannot speak generally to the rules governing use of social security numbers. As we noted previously, those questions should be addressed to the IRS.

As we have explained, Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees' bona fide religious beliefs if it can do so without incurring an undue hardship on the operation of its business. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(j), and 2000e-2(a). In past years, the EEOC took the position that, at least in some cases, it would not be an undue hardship for an employer to employ workers who did not have a social security number, but that employees had to have income and social security taxes withheld whether or not they did not have a social security number. Title VII has never provided an exemption from paying taxes. It simply allowed employers to withhold taxes without requiring a Social Security number.

The EEOC's view that it would not be an undue hardship to employ individuals who did not have a social security number was based on its understanding that the Internal Revenue Service provided an exception that allowed employees to work without a Social Security number in certain circumstances. Based on that understanding, the Commission litigated a few cases, including EEOC v. Information Systems Consulting, which was referenced in attachments to your Jun 19th letter. That case was not adjudicated in court but was settled in the early 1990's.

Since then, the IRS has informed us that it has changed its rules to require employers to provide IRS with employees' social security numbers. In addition, courts that have addressed the issue have uniformly held that the Internal Revenue Code requires employers to provide their employees' social security numbers to the IRS and that employers therefore are not required to accommodate an employee's religious objections to using social security numbers. See, e.g., Seaworth v. Pearson, 203 F.3d 1056 (8th Cir.), cert denied, 531 U.S. 895 (2000); Sutton v. Providence St. Joseph Medical Center 192 F.3d 826 (9th Cir.1999); and Baltgalvis v. Newport News Shipbuilding Inc., 132 F. Supp. 2d 414 (E.D.Va.), aff'd, 15 Fed. Appx. 172 (4th Cir. 2001).

We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of § 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-12(b).


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel

This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.