Facebook and Employment, What Will the US Dept of Justice Say?

by Easter on March 25, 2012

The news story of employers asking job seekers for Facebook passwords created a big buzz last week. Fortunately, the  job candidate whom the story was about, refused to give the information and removed his application from the company.

Facebook responded by warning employers not to ask for users passwords. It’s all about privacy and sharing a password is against Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook is threatening to take action against companies who ask potential candidates for password information.

This story caught the attention of two US Senators who sent letters to the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity asking them to investigate the practice of employers requesting Facebook passwords of potential candidates.

Facebook and employment is a real hot topic. You better believe that companies look to see what a candidate has posted on social media sites. People have the choice of what to make public when they use Facebook. It is absolutely wrong  for companies to invade privacy and ask for passwords.

Companies could put themselves into a real legal mess by asking for a Facebook password. Here’s an example. Let’s say the company asks for the password and the job candidate Sara, gives the information. Her Facebook page reveals that she recently found out she is pregnant. Her birthday is April 4, 1970, so she will soon be 42.

This company decides not to hire her, but hires a 32 year old man. Sara decides to sue, declaring discrimination against her. She is claiming age discrimination,  and discrimination due to her pregnancy. She could be awarded  the job, back pay for the job, and punitive damages. The company could be out of all of those dollars plus attorney fees, all because they asked for Sara’s Facebook password.

Bottom line when it comes to Facebook and employment is:

  • Employers, go ahead and look at what is public on social media sites, but don’t ask for any passwords.
  • Job candidates, clean up your social media and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the entire world to see.


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