Whether you’re an employer or a recruiter, the overwhelming opinion regarding asking for a W-2 is: ‘bad move.’ In some states, it’s against the law. In other states it’s legal but frowned upon by professionals in the field. Although there may be special occasions to ask for W2 information, it creates potential liability for the employer.
For Employers: Asking For W-2, Legal or Illegal?
Why would an employer ask for a W-2 anyway? Confirming previous employment and wage data are two reasons, and there are no federal laws that prevent an employer from asking. There are, however, a number of states that prohibit the practice. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California and New York are a few. A quick Google search will reveal more states.
Potential Liability With W2?
W-2s contain sensitive information like social security numbers and if not handled correctly, could put the candidate in danger of identity theft and the employer open to liability. Most state laws require an employer to notify affected individuals of security breaches. Having candidate W-2s can also put the employer at risk for discrimination claims because they contain protected information as defined by the EEOC. For example, dependent care benefits could be used to discriminate against candidates with children without having to ask about this subject directly.
Also, having access to the sensitive information could open employers up to discrimination claims from disqualified job applicants.
Is It Different When a Recruiter Asks For a W-2?
What about a recruiter asking for a W-2? The same rules apply, although there may be legitimate reasons a recruiter may ask for a W-2, where legal. Commission sales people is one example.
Candidates, if you’re going to share your W2, remember to redact where appropriate. The savvy recruiter understands that past pay is no indication of current value and employers should be basing pay on the market value of the position, required skills and the experience of the candidate. From the candidate’s perspective, any company that requires pay verification is probably not worth working for anyway.
Don’t ask for W-2s. Whether you’re a hiring manager or a recruiter, avoid the topic. The information on a W-2 is sensitive and may create the opportunity for abuse, leading to potential liability or claims of discrimination. Smart recruiters and hiring managers focus on the fundamentals to make the right hiring decisions.