Asking For Facebook Passwords Is Risky
News of job interviewers demanding Facebook passwords from applicants caused a media storm. Top news outlets published numerous reports about job applicants being asked to give their Facebook passwords to hiring managers during job interviews so the potential employer could inspect personal profiles on the applicants’ Facebook pages.
California employers should think twice about engaging in this practice during the recruiting and hiring process.
As discussed in HR Allen’s social media white paper (sign in required), peeking at an applicant’s Facebook page could reveal information to the person conducting the interview that the person is prohibited from asking about, such as religious affiliation or sexual orientation.
What if the employer learns from the Facebook page that the applicant is pregnant? The employer now opens itself up to a discrimination lawsuit if the employer does not hire the applicant. The applicant may argue that the reason she was not hired was because the employer learned she was pregnant from her Facebook profile and discriminated against her. Further, an individual’s privacy rights under the California Constitutions may be violated.
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan issued a statement warning that Facebook may take action against employers who demand passwords. “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers, or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action … ,” Egan said, citing concerns that the demands violate Facebook’s terms of service.
Two U.S. Senators asked the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether the practice of demanding passwords violates federal laws. See the full letter.
Author: Gail Cecchettini Whaley
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