by Burt Stein, Business Editor
for The Post Publications
PHILADELPHIA PA – Human resources staffers who ask interviewees for their Facebook passwords —the newest twist in employment — face some high risks, Philadelphia-based employment attorney Christopher Ezold claims. He says such a request could give new hires, current employees and unhired applicants cause for litigation.
A quick look into the Facebook account of a a prospective hire can offer more insight than a week’s worth of interviews, according to Ezold. An HR interviewer might feel that if the prospect has nothing to hide, then what’s the problem? Some, however, believe such requests are an invasion of privacy and must be illegal.
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, information on the Facebook page itself could 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.
Those who then refuse to hire, terminate or discipline a prospect could face a charge of discrimination, based upon the knowledge they would not have had without access to the social media account.
“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. Besides, he adds, “it is likely to damage your ability to recruit quality talent, as prospective employees will find your request aggressive and rude.”
The federal government is considering whether employers have the right to peer into prospects’ or employees’ social media accounts, according to Ezold. Several states are considering or have already passed laws prohibiting such demands by employers.
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