Employers asking for Facebook passwords in addition to résumés

We have mentioned before on our San Diego employment law attorney blog that more employers in the U.S. are using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to learn more about job applicants as well as current employees. In some cases, postings, pictures and status updates have resulted in employees being fired, athletes losing endorsements and job seekers being denied employment.

Social media continues to have an effect on employment law issues in California and throughout the entire country. In order to prevent employers from accessing private information that could be used against an individual, people are now making use of privacy settings and taking more caution when posting messages, pictures and status updates on social networking sites. However, job applicants are now discovering that the less information they make public on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the more employers are asking for passwords to view their “private” information during job interviews.

Those who work in human resources departments and screen job applicants claim that it is not uncommon to ask applicants or employees to login to their social media accounts so that employers can view their information.

Some employers argue that it is a more effective way to learn more about applicants and ensure that employees are not behaving in such a way that could damage the reputation of a company. Law enforcement agencies argue that obtaining information from these sites allows them to make sure that current or potential employees are not engaging in any illegal activity.

Although employers may have their reasons for wanting to access a person’s private information, the debate continues regarding whether this is legal. Can employers ask job applicants and employees to hand over their passwords to access personal social media sites? Employers claim that individuals can choose not to hand over their passwords, but with such a competitive job market, many people feel like they can’t say no for fear of not being hired or losing their job.

Until states define clear laws regarding what information employers can obtain from social media sites and how employers obtain information from sites like Facebook and Twitter, San Diego residents should always remain conscious of how their information on these sites could be used against them, especially if they are searching for a new job.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, “Employers ask job applicants for their Facebook passwords,” Manuel Valdes and Mike Creger, March 21, 2012

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