Re: Retaliation, Prejudice, & Wrongful Termination for Social Security No-Match Letter(s) for Strauss Workers

Re: Retaliation, Prejudice, & Wrongful Termination for Social Security No-Match Letter(s) for Strauss Workers

Attn: Strauss Company, Human Resources                                                   

July 27, 2020

Voces de la Frontera, is a statewide member led organization that advocates for immigrant and racial justice and the rights of working people. 

Since April 22, Voces filed a complaint with OSHA and the health department regarding the lack of information and protection from the infection and spread of COVID-19 at Strauss. That investigation is still active and to this date, the company has failed to implement the necessary protections to stop the spread of COVID-19 by not providing six feet distancing in the facility, inadequate and arbitrary paid sick days for workers infected by COVID-19 and those exposed, and not informing workers about who has been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 at Strauss. 

The actions on the part of the company to fire works who have been working there for 12-20 years, and have been working through this pandemic, can only be seen as retaliation intended to intimidate and punish workers for speaking up on their own behalf.

    

In addition, it is the workers belief that the Human Resources Director, Cheryl Wisman, is being allowed by the company to bring her prejudice to the job, acting in an unprofessional manner, harassing and profiling Latinxs. 

When she handed workers the July 23rd letters telling them they were fired for a Social Security No Match letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), she appeared to be unaware of the union contract language that references federal policy from SSA that clearly states, that a Social Security Number (SSN) No Match does not indicate anything about a workers’ immigration status and it should not be a basis for retaliation, firing or re-verification of work authorization.

As you know, each year employers file a Wage and Tax Statement (Form W-2) with SSA and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report how much they paid their employees and how much they deducted in taxes from their employees’ wages throughout the year. SSA sends a no-match letter when the names or SSNs listed on an employer’s Form W-2 do not match SSA’s records. The letter’s purpose is to notify workers and employers of the discrepancy and to alert workers that they are not receiving proper credit for their earnings, which can affect future retirement or disability benefits administered by SSA.

There are many reasons why a no-match may exist — a name change, input errors by SSA staff, and reporting errors by an employer or employee are all recognized causes of no-matches. In response to a no-match letter, SSA directs you to “review the name and SSN information you submitted on the Form W-2” and provide SSA with corrected information.”

Importantly, you should not take any adverse action — up to and including termination —based solely upon the receipt of one or more SSA no-match letters. Doing so may be illegal under federal or state law.  If you do require employees of certain national origin, racial, or ethnic groups to reverify their identity or employment eligibility based solely upon receipt of a no-match letter, you may be liable for having committed national origin discrimination in violation of the antidiscrimination provisions of federal immigration law.

The SSA itself advises you against taking adverse action including “laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against that individual” just because his information does not match SSA records. In fact, doing so could subject you to enforcement by the U.S. Department of Justice and monetary penalties under other state and federal employment laws.

Some employers who receive no-match letters mistakenly believe that the letter indicates that a worker is not authorized to work legally in the United States. Federal agency guidance, legal authority, and the no-match letter itself confirm that a no-match letter does not “make any statement about an employee’s immigration status.”  

However, Strauss clearly knows this or would not have reaffirmed proper protocol in the union contract. Thus, the SSNoMatch letter is being used as a tool for retaliation and prejudice against essential workers who are seeking protections on the job and to be treated with the dignity they deserve. As a company that prides itself in being a premier producer of “humanely raised veal and lamb products” and a company “recognized for their leadership in humane and ethical animal welfare,” we call on you to extend that same concern to the workers that produce the products you sell.

We call on you to reinstate the workers in 24 hours, and implement the highest standards of CDC-OSHA guidelines, including anti-retaliation policies, to protect the health and lives of workers at Strauss.  If there are workers who do not wish to return, we call on providing honorable compensation for their years of work and their hazard pay during this pandemic. In addition, if anyone should be terminated, the HR director must be held accountable and fired. She has acted unprofessionally and created economic and emotional hardship for essential workers at Strauss.

Sincerely,

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director

Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S. 5th Street, Milwaukee WI 53204