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Social Security Mismatch Wasn't Grounds To Fire

•  Recent Cases     updated  2008/06/18 09:25


Thirty-three janitors at the Los Angeles Lakers' arena were wrongfully fired for not responding quickly enough to a request to provide a correct Social Security number, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Aramark Facilities Services received a "no-match" letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that information for 48 of its workers at the Staples Center did not match the numbers in the SSA database.

This caused Aramark to suspect that the janitors were in the United States illegally.

Aramark gave the employees three days to begin the process of getting a new Social Security card. Fifteen employees complied, and the other 33 were fired a week later.

The Service Employees International Union filed a grievance, and an arbitrator gave the employees their jobs back, along with back pay. The district court overturned the ruling, stating it violated public policy on immigration.

Judge Hall reversed the district court ruling.
    "This case boils down to a single issue: whether the SSA's no-match letter - and the fired employees' responses - put Aramark on constructive notice that it was employing undocumented workers," Hall wrote.

But the government agency failed to do so in the Aramark case, the court ruled, as constructive notice required positive proof of a workers' undocumented status.

"The employees' failure to meet the deadline," Hall said, "is simply not probative enough of their immigration status to indicate that public policy would be violated if they were reinstated and given back pay."



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