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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Firm’s request for 10 years of applicant’s W-2s may be legal

A company's request for 10 years of a

A company's request for 10 years of a job applicant's W-2s may be legal. Photo Credit: Newsday File / Kevin P. Coughlin

DEAR CARRIE: I am applying for a job as an assistant at a financial planning firm. The company wants 10 years of my W2s in order for me to complete the application process. I feel that is a bit much. What’s more, the last 10 years haven’t been good for me financially as I have been in and out of work because of layoffs. And my husband lost his job and his medical insurance. It’s hard to do medical and mortgage at the same time when you are not earning a salary. Is it legal for the company to be so intrusive during the hiring process? — Too Much W2?

DEAR TOO MUCH: The 10-year request could be legal, said the Manhattan office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces anti-discrimination statutes in the workplace.

“It is not unlawful per se under our laws to ask for such information unless it is only asked of certain applicants — women, older workers, etc. — and not others applying for the same type of job,” said Electra Yourke, the office’s senior enforcement manager. “Then there might be a question as to why any group is singled out.”

Since you are applying for a job that will most likely involve access to the confidential financial information of the firm’s clients, perhaps the company wants to ensure you have no obligations that would impair your objectivity, Yourke said. And the request may stem from concerns that arose after an interviewer at the company read your resume or spoke with you, Yourke said.

“If you have made your potential employer aware of any financial difficulties, or if your resume reveals periods of unemployment, etc., the company may feel that reviewing your W2s is part of its fiduciary responsibility to its clients,” she said. “Assuming you are willing to provide the information, you could ask in a friendly way whether it is routine for applicants to supply so much information.”

For more information, go to eeoc.gov or call 800-669-4000.

DEAR CARRIE: My son, who is just out of college, is a full-time, hourly employee at a local film production company. Last week the owner told him not to come in on Thursday and Friday. He also told my son he wouldn’t be paid for those days. To make matters worse, he receives no vacation or sick days, which he might have substituted for those mandatory days off. I said none of that sounds legal. What do think? — Reel Life

DEAR REEL LIFE: Your son has received a harsh introduction to the world of work and labor laws. Since he is hourly, he has to be paid only for the hours he works. So the company doesn’t have to pay him for the Thursday and Friday he didn’t work, even though the time off was involuntary. And by law, companies don’t have to offer benefits. They generally do to attract talent. But whether they offer the perks is generally up to them.

DEAR CARRIE: I have left my job. When can my company legally terminate my benefits? — Beneficial Query

DEAR BENEFICIAL: That depends on your former employer’s benefits policy. Employers don’t have to offer benefits; so they can set the terms unless a union or employment contract comes into play. At some companies, employees who leave have benefits through the end of the month, while at others coverage is terminated as soon as the worker leaves. So you’ll need to find out what your former company’s policy says.

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