Ninth Circuit: No-Match Letters Not Convincing Evidence of Immigration Status

The Ninth Circuit held that Aramark's policy of firing workers who did not cure "no-match" letters issued by the Social Security Administration was not compelled by law. Therefore, the court concluded, an arbitration award reinstating 33 workers who did not correct "no-match" deficiencies timely was not contrary to public policy.

In essence, Aramark received "no match" letters from the SSA for over 50 employees. The company issued a letter to the employees saying that if they did not correct the social security numbers within a certain period of time, they would be terminated. The employees' union grieved the termination. An arbitrator held the no-match letter did not establish the employees were ineligible to work and did not supply good cause for discharge under the union contract. Aramark attempted to challenge the award as contrary to public policy, namely IRCA.

The Court of Appeals upheld the arbitrator's award. The court noted that no-match letters did not prove illegal alien status and reviewed impressive statistics showing that many, many employees have mismatches because of factors other than immigrant status. So, the arbitrator's award did not violate public policy and was entitled to deference.

If no-match letters don't prove the employee is not entitled to work, and if the court is correct that there are few consequences that flow from the failure to correct them.... someone might argue: why issue them to the employer at all? Shouldn't it be up to the Social Security Administration and the employee to correct social security information to ensure that withholdings are properly credited? Why should the employer care if the employee is deprived of credit because of a mismatched number? If the employee won't correct it, the money can be used to pay other recipients.

The case is Aramark v. SEIU and the opinion is here.