Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


How Low The Bar

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling against a Ms. Cassano, who feared that providing her SSN placed her “in dire jeopardy of having her identity stolen,” refused to provide it, and was terminated.

The decision states that “There is no doubt that laws requiring employers to collect SSNs of employees have a rational basis.”

Is that the only requirement for a law these days?

Via Davi Ottenheimer, “Employee terminated for refusing to give SSN,” and the case is Cassano v. Carb, No. 04-6712 (2d Cir. 1/24/06).

[Update: For clarity’s sake, I’m not objecting here to the requirement for an SSN for tax purposes. I was trying to comment that I’d hope laws not only have a rational basis, but are constitutional, minimally intrusive to achieve their purpose, and perhaps there are other broad criteria which they ought to meet.

3 comments on "How Low The Bar"

  • Chris Walsh says:

    What “requirement for a law” would you be looking for? I assume you have no objection to an income tax, in principle.
    It seems reasonable on its face that the State be able to gather that minimum quantity of personal information necessary to raise revenue via taxation, don’t you think?
    Sure, the employer should be at risk of being hit with a legal hammer if they fail to secure her information, and they should be strictly regulated as far as what they can use it for, but that doesn’t seem to be what you are objecting to.

  • Elphaba says:

    There is an obvious problem with a SSN being required for a job application (and a lot of applications ask for them!) but once you are hired by the company, it is rather necessary for income tax purposes… I agree with Chris though, the employer is absolutely positively responsible for securing that data once they have it!

  • Objection is highly principled in many places, primarily those that don’t have it. I know of several places where the economy does very nicely without it, and to add it in would probably result in a poorer place, economically speaking. It’s important to bear in mind that all taxes are choices, and none are “essential.” They all have to compete on their merits, both internally and externally.
    In terms of income tax and the SSN, many countries have a better system than the US.
    E.g., in Australia I recall it is not compulsory to provide ones equivalent number in a work place – the TSN. If you do not, you get to pay the highest band of tax. Also, the TSN can only be used for a taxation purpose, and if an employer uses it for any other purpose, they will face fines, etc.
    It’s just this old “one number to rule them all” anti-principle again… No matter how you wear it, it’s a shakle, not an ornament.

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