Social Security no longer notifying employers about gender

WASHINGTON -- The Social Security Administration (SSA) has ended the practice of allowing gender to be matched in its Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS).

This will result in the immediate cessation of SSA sending notifications that alert employers when the gender marker on an employee's W-2 does not match Social Security records.

The extent of the problem was made crystal clear when NCTE's Freedom of Information Act request was answered showing 711,488 gender no-match letters were sent in 2010 alone.

"Ending this practice, which has endangered transgender people and our jobs, has been a priority for NCTE and we are pleased that the SSA has updated its policy," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

"Alerting employers about differences in someone's gender threatened people's jobs and did not accomplish what this verification system was designed for. There was absolutely no reason for it and it was extremely dangerous for transgender people, who still face significant disrespect, discrimination and violence in the workplace."

For years, transgender employees have been contacting NCTE seeking advice about how to manage the difficult position that the SSA had placed them in with their employers.

"Many people have been able to retain their jobs, but not all of them," Keisling said, "and not one of them should have been fired just because the Social Security Administration outed them at a workplace where someone was prejudiced against transgender people."

The SSNVS allows employers to match their record of employee names and Social Security numbers (SSNs) with Social Security records for payroll reports. The notification letters alerted individuals and employers when information in a person's employment records is inconsistent with SSA's records for that employee. It was designed to ensure that people receive the benefits to which they are entitled and that they are using a valid Social Security number for employment purposes. Unfortunately, this unfairly impacted transgender people whose gender marker had not been changed with the SSA.

NCTE has asked the SSA to stop sending employers these notices, and today, the SSA has made great progress in fixing the complex systems that generate such notices. In the event that you or someone you know does receive a gender no-match letter in the future, please contact the organization.

Meanwhile, the SSA still has an outdated policy for changing gender markers in SSA records. To change gender markers, SSA requires an unfair, unobtainable and unnecessary standard for transgender people that include proof of specific sex reassignment surgery.

"These requirements, particularly surgery, are far too expensive for many transgender people and present a major financial hurdle for a group of people who already face significantly high levels of under-employment and unemployment," Keisling said.

NCTE will continue to work with the SSA to make changes to this policy so that transgender people are able to update their information with Social Security and ensure that they have equal access to the benefits Social Security provides.

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