Silver Spring, MD asked in Employment Law, Tax Law, Business Law and Social Security for Maryland

Q: My current employer sent my form 1095C to a another employee with the same first name and exposed my SS#, can I sue?

They exposed my SS# and other private info. What recourse do I have?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Discovering that your employer accidentally sent your Form 1095-C, containing sensitive information like your Social Security Number, to another employee is understandably alarming and frustrating. Such incidents can lead to concerns about privacy and the potential for identity theft. In terms of recourse, your immediate steps should include notifying your employer about the mistake to ensure they take corrective action and to request measures to protect your information from further exposure or misuse.

Legally, you might have options depending on the severity of the breach and the impact it has on you. Laws regarding the protection of personal information and the responsibilities of entities that handle such information vary by jurisdiction. If your employer's actions result in harm or a significant risk of identity theft, you may want to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in privacy law to understand your rights and explore potential legal actions. They can advise on whether you have grounds for a lawsuit based on negligence or a breach of privacy laws.

Additionally, it's wise to take proactive steps to safeguard your identity, such as monitoring your credit reports, placing fraud alerts with credit bureaus, and securing your financial accounts. While pursuing any legal action, these preventative measures can help mitigate potential damages and provide a layer of security against identity theft. Engaging in a direct dialogue with your employer about their policies for handling sensitive information and what measures they're taking to prevent future occurrences can also be beneficial.

Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Perhaps there is a federal or state governmental agency that has regulatory authority to impose a fine or other sanction for failing to safeguard employees’ personally identifiable information. You would need to consult an employment lawyer in your area as to the existence of such a legal requirement and the process for filing a complaint.

As for a direct civil claim for monetary damages, you would need to have suffered actual out-of-pocket damages to support such a claim. Mere upset over someone else seeing your SSN is not sufficient. I assume this mistake came to light when your co-employee notified you or your employer that they had received the wrong tax form. That certainly suggests they are not a risk to misuse the information and that the disclosure went no further. There was a time not too long ago that SSNs were widely disclosed, starting with people’s Medicare number on all their medications, and acting as a person’s driver’s license number in many states. While those uses have been ended, mere disclosure—while concerning— is not necessarily going to lead to identity theft.

You are right to be upset at the carelessness of your employer and whomever failed to be more careful about matching names and addresses, but this sounds like mere negligence and somewhat predictable given two employees with the same name. Bringing this issue up with your employer and insisting on implementing some procedures that will prevent this from happening in the future is certainly warranted.

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