HAND OVER THE KEYS … TO YOUR FACEBOOK: EMPLOYERS SEEKING ACCESS TO APPLICANTS’ SOCIAL NETWORKING DRAWS HEAVY SCRUTINY
With social media in today’s society, everything counts in large amounts. And that goes for the workplace, too.
Some employers are clearly beyond just browsing a job candidate’s publicly-available profile after a Google search and are instead intent on finding out all the detail that’s maintained on a person’s private profile – even if they stand over the shoulder of the applicant while he or she logs in personally and accesses his or her profile in front of the interviewer.
So much for a person’s employment history and education taking center stage during the interview process.
Privacy advocates and Facebook aren’t the only ones complaining. Several legislators, including Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, have indicated they are already drafting legislation to halt this approach, or plan to do so soon. Many of those same legislators also are urging the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to scrutinize the practice.
There’s no doubt that employers need to think carefully about whether it’s a good idea to ask a potential job applicant (or even a current employee) for their Facebook username and password, or request other personal, social-networking access information. Not only does potential legal liability come into play, but other considerations are a factor, including the message that you send to your applicants and the public by doing so.
That said, the difficulty employers have in the hiring process is often overlooked. On one hand, employers have to weigh the choice between not doing a little research into the people they are considering to decrease the chance of being accused of rejecting an applicant because they find a propensity for union activity or a protected discriminatory characteristic. Or, on the other hand, actually going through with the check to avoid hiring someone who may have a history of negative behavior which could adversely affect the employer later, whether it be a track record of saying disparaging things about prior employers or about a known connection to violence.
In an effort to strike the best balance, many employers have started to use third-parties to vet this information. That way they can find out what they want with regard to specifically-identified concerns, while shielding themselves from finding out things they aren’t supposed to base decisions on. Of course, even if a third-party accesses the site, privacy concerns remain for the person whose profile is being accessed. And, if the searching isn’t done consistently, that can be a big problem, too.
Taking someone else’s keys involves responsibility and forethought, which means consulting competent legal counsel to provide guidance on the prudence of engaging in this practice. This is particularly true given the way employment law is constantly changing and often playing from behind to keep up with the ways in which technology impacts the workforce.
Drive safely employers.