Requests for Facebook Password Ignite Risky Legal Woes
PHILADELPHIA, June 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — The newest twist in employment is employers asking interviewees for their Facebook password. In a stagnant economy, businesses keep a closer eye on risk, and a quick look into a prospective hire’s Facebook account can offer more insight than a week’s worth of interviews, according to employment attorney Christopher Ezold (ezoldlaw.com). Those asked often feel the request is an invasion of privacy and must be illegal.
An HR interviewer might feel that if the prospect has nothing to hide, then what’s the problem? However, some believe the request is probably illegal. Ezold says that simple request could be more than just an invasion of privacy. It could give new hires, current employees and unhired applicants cause for litigation.
Ezold agrees that a glance at a private Facebook page can quickly let an HR person know if they are dealing with a responsible adult or someone with bad judgment, useful information in a hiring decision. Ironically, it is the actual information on the Facebook page itself that would be the cause of future litigation.
“The problem is that even if you glean good information out of the ‘spin’ of a social media account, you will also likely elicit a lot of unnecessary information that puts you at risk about the subject that is, in fact, illegal to ask, such as religious beliefs and marital or citizenship status,” Ezold says.
If you then refuse to hire, terminate or discipline the prospect, you could face the charge of acting discriminatorily on the knowledge you would not have had without access to the social media account.
The federal government is considering whether employers have the right to peer into prospects’ or employees’ social media accounts. Several states are considering or have passed laws prohibiting such demands by employers.
“Right now, there is nothing that can truly protect the employer from backlash on the Facebook topic, so it’s better to hold off on a password request,” says Ezold. “Furthermore, it is likely to damage your ability to recruit quality talent, as prospective employees will find your request aggressive and rude.”
Christopher Ezold is a partner at The Ezold Law Firm, P.C., a Philadelphia-based boutique law firm focusing on business, employment and health care law. He is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. Contact Ezold at 610-660-5585, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ezoldlaw.com.
SOURCE Christopher Ezold