Do I have to tell the temp agency that I am on an SSI disability?
December 23, 2012 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I went to a temp agency. Their paperwork included some questions to see if an employer would qualify for a Work Opportunity Tax Credit by hiring me. I answered yes, because I have received SSI within the last 60 days. Could I have chosen not to reveal my disability status without being accused of giving false information?

I went to a temp agency, and they handed me some paperwork to fill out. Everything was cool until I got to the section related to the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives employers a tax credit if they hire people who are "disadvantaged." The only question that I could answer yes to was whether I had received SSI within the last 60 days.

I had been hoping to avoid mentioning my disability status, on the grounds that employers see a history of physical or mental illness as a major red flag. However, the temp agency emphasized that giving false information is grounds for dismissal. The form also stated that WOTC eligibility would be verified through some kind of records search.

1) Should I see the WOTC questions as optional? Can I choose not to check the box without being afraid that I will later be accused of misrepresenting myself? (Perhaps they do a search to confirm "yes" answers, but not if someone answers "no"?)

2) If I can avoid checking the box, should I check it anyway? Obviously, this program is intended to promote the hiring of disabled people. But I'm concerned that this information may prejudice the recruiter at the temp agency, as well as any prospective employers that she tries to pitch me to.
posted by aphorist to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAEL, of course, but without seeing the form itself, I would assume at this stage that it's just a checkbox on the temp agency's form rather than some sort of legal document. As a general rule, you are entitled to provisions of the Privacy Act which cover Social Security records, and other parties cannot request this information without your permission. It may be that the fine print of this form says that checking the box means you grant that permission. While in a practical sense it is not impossible that the temp agency could find out you did not disclose this, I would doubt it is something likely enough to worry about (they couldn't possibly have the personnel to go digging through records of all the non-box-checkers). Mostly I think they have this as a service to employers, rather than yourself. My knowledge of this area is not great but my mother formerly did job placement as a social worker and I have family members now who get similar types of assistance, and the number of interested employers is really, really small compared to the universe of companies looking for staff. So in a practical sense it isn't likely to help you much, either.

That said, I'm not sure that being on SSI is any more prejudicial to your hiring chances than the simple fact of not being currently employed. But again, I think it's likely to only help you a tiny amount.

So unless you are working specifically with an agency that does such placements, I would feel comfortable omitting this information.
posted by dhartung at 2:37 PM on December 23, 2012

Ask the agency. If you'd prefer not to state that you've been out on disability, or are disabled, you should be able to keep that information private. They may be able to state that you are eligible for a tax incentive without disclosing why. Being disabled may advantage you with large organizations who are able to accommodate needs more readily, and may want to improve their reporting(not sure it matters much these days). Smaller companies may very well see it as a liability.
posted by theora55 at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2012

I think you do have to tell them. Here's why I think so. The form you filled out, was it the IRS Form 8850: Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit? If yes, the EEOC looked into it, and specifically published two public letters about it. Here is the most recent one. Basically, everything is lawful but there was a small question about the disabled vets parts. That letter mentions the instructions provided with the form. The form instructions do include a note about disabled vets, and no other notes (like for SSI/SNAP/TANF recipients).

I think the idea is that you disclose as part of a bigger initiative to become part of the workforce. The only exceptions are for protected classes. The EEOC and ADA do not find that receiving SSI is protected.

If you're curious about what happens after you fill out Form 8850: You and the agency then fill out ETA Form 9061 and provide evidence as listed at the end of that form. Or you submit an ETA Form 9062, depending.

However, I could be wrong and there's a free way to find out: Call the IRS, which is the group that manages taxes and tax credits. They can answer all your questions, and will gladly do it. Their number is 800-829-1040.
posted by Houstonian at 6:29 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the responses, everyone.

Houstonian, the form was indeed IRS Form 8850, now that I see it again. It says on the second page of the form that "Completion of this form is voluntary..." (which kind of contradicts the statement on the first page that "Under penalties of perjury, I declare that...the above, correct, and complete," but never mind that.)

The public letter which you linked to also mentions that "Form 8850 clearly informs job applicants that completion is voluntary and the customary practice of employers using the Form is to include it among other application documents for completion. If completion is in fact voluntary and the collected information is held confidentially, this ADA exception would apply to the inquiry."

So I think that I can safely leave the box unchecked in the future, although I may give the IRS a call just to be sure.
posted by aphorist at 3:19 PM on December 25, 2012

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