Job seekers have recently been warned of a new trend at job interviews; prospective employers are asking applicants for their Facebook and other social media passwords. After the Associated Press reported on this trend, there was a widespread public debate. Many people were upset and Facebook even made a statement claiming that they may pursue legal action against employers who demand passwords from Facebook users. This leaves many job seekers wondering -- is this even legal?
The answer is unclear. There is no federal law explicitly preventing potential employers from asking for Facebook passwords. Employers may even be able to ask for passwords of current employees. Some say that employers ask for passwords simply because they can. With gloomy unemployment rates, job applicants and employees alike give employers wide latitude to ask for things because people simply need the job. Career coaches recommend, however, that everyone needs to take measures to protect their personal lives and that job seekers may politely refuse to give out this information.
Nevertheless, what rights does an employee or potential employee have? The law is scarce on this issue and legal experts are hard pressed to find definitive law prohibiting employers from asking for this information. Anti-discrimination laws may prevent an employer from asking for social media account information because employers are not allowed to make hiring, or other employment decisions, based on certain classifications such as race, sex, disability, marital status and religious views.
Is Legislation on the Horizon?
Some federal and state legislators are acting quickly to try to make laws that will ban employers from asking for this, and other, private information. Massachusetts, for example, has introduced legislation that would ban legislators from asking for social media account information. Legislators are even asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice to look into whether employers are violating any federal laws when asking for such personal information.
Anyone concerned with an employer’s request for social media account information should not hesitate to contact an experienced employment law attorney to determine and assert their legal rights.