Social Security Number Trumps Religious Discrimination

Social Security Number Trumps Religious Discrimination

A fundamentalist Christian filling out new-employee paperwork refuses to provide a Social Security number because he believes his identification by any number would cause him to have the “Mark of the Beast.” Can this person successfully sue the company for refusing to make a religious accommodation?

As attorney Eric Meyer explains on The Employer Handbook blog, such a scenario took place when Donald Yeager applied for an internship with FirstEnergy Generation Corp. When Yeager wasn’t allowed to begin working, he filed a suit in Ohio federal court alleging religious discrimination.

In the end, Meyer says the company won its motion to dismiss. He notes the court determined that even if the religious belief was bona fide, providing a Social Security number is a government mandate, not a company requirement.

As the court explains, “The [U.S. Internal Revenue Service] requires every employee to have a Social Security number. And both the employee and the employer face potential penalties from the IRS for not reporting the employee’s Social Security number. Though the penalties may be waived for reasonable cause, plaintiff Yeager has not provided anything to indicate that religious beliefs will be considered reasonable cause.”

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