The short answer is YES. However there are some caveats that you need to be aware of.
Lets consider the situation of a US Citizen or a new Permanent Resident that are legally allowed to work in the USA (“United States”). There is no requirement that says you MUST apply for an SSN (“Social Security Number”), so why does it seem like everybody wants you to have an SSN before they will hire you?
When applying for a job, employers are required to have the new potential employee fill out USCIS Form I-9 “Employment Eligibility Verification”. There are several ways to verify if an employee is eligible to legally work in the USA, and an SSN is NOT a requirement for this verification to succeed.
So assuming the employer has successfully verified you are legal to work in the US, the first caveat is that they can still rightfully refuse to hire you if you do not provide them with your SSN (even if you say its because of strong religious beliefs). The reason is that they can claim it will can cause undue hardship on the business when dealing with the IRS. The issue for the employer comes at tax time when the employer files all their paperwork with the IRS. The IRS can fine an employer that does not provide the proper information about their employees, which includes failing to provide their SSN. There is a way for the employer to get around this fine, but they need to chase you down every year and ask you to provide your SSN, and then they need to document that you would not provide it to them, and then they need to provide this information to the IRS. So basically it creates a hassle for the employer, and they are within their rights to refuse to hire you for not providing your SSN.
Now let’s look at the other caveat which occurs if they DO hire you, even though you will not provide your SSN. Some employers have no problem dealing with the IRS and providing the required documentation stating that they “asked you for your SSN, but you continue to refuse to provide it.” Even in the case where you will not provide your SSN, the employer is still required to deduct Social Security and Medicare amounts from your paycheck, and submit it to the IRS. Because you do not have an SSN, this is 7.65% of your paycheck that goes to the IRS, that you can NEVER claim back (if you do not have an SSN, then you can not file a tax return to claim a refund). Also, you can never make a claim to receive Social Security payments in the future when you reach retirement age.
So to summarize:
– If you are legally allowed to work in the USA, an employer has the right to refuse to hire you if you do not provide an SSN.
– If you are legally allowed to work in the USA, an employer can choose to hire you even if you do not provide an SSN, but they will still need to deduct 7.65% for Socical Security and Medicare payments from your paycheck and submit to the IRS. You can not file a tax return asking for a refund if you do not have an SSN, and you can not ever make a claim to receive Social Security payments.
NOTE: This is not legal advice, and is for educational purposes only.