Recent reports of employers asking prospective employees for Facebook passwords and login credentials have raised alarm by Facebook, the applicants and the legal community.
The Associated Press reportedly asked for Facebook credentials from a job applicant for the purpose of reviewing private information.
There are at least two additional cases where individuals were required to share Facebook passwords and user names as part of the application process for employment. There is also the instance of a city that required prospective job applicants to provide access to their Facebook account as well as their email accounts.
Facebook made a statement that it is a violation of “Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” to solicit a Facebook password. In face, Facebook notes that this “undermines the privacy expectation and the security of both the user and the user’s friends”.
Another point made by Facebook is that asking for user credentials in order to gain information about prospective employees could expose employers to lawsuits. Once an employer gets access to information, such as discovering the individual is a member of a protected group, the employer could be exposed to discrimination suits if the employer does not hire that person.
Employers who access private account information can therefore be accused of unlawfully discriminating against otherwise qualified applicants based upon information contained in private Facebook accounts.
Unlike comprehensive background checks for employment in law enforcement, or at highly sensitive infrastructure sites, and where there may be access to vulnerable populations, which is generally accepted, employers may gain information they cannot ask about through a social media profile. This information could be the individual’s religion, age, marital status, pregnancy status, or other protected information. The onus is on employers to understand that there are categories of information that are not permitted to make hiring decisions based on. Having access to this through a profile could be deemed sufficient to subject the employer to civil liability.
There is current litigation pending and being drafted to address gaps in federal law that allow employers to require personal login information from prospective employees to be considered for a job. As the situation evolves, HR Knowledge will keep you posted.Button Text.