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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights Act’

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Last week Maryland passed a law prohibiting companies from asking employees or job candidates their social media login information, becoming the first state in the US to do so. Other states are assumed to follow suit, but it seems to be one of those issues people can’t stop talking about after the initial article was posted on AP about a case in Seattle. Everyone has an opinion they want to share, so I figured it was my time to add my 2 cents  into the jackpot.

So, employers requiring employees/candidates to hand over their passwords, okay or not? For personal and legal reasons, I say not.

When I first learned about the instance in Seattle, I was surprised that an interviewer would request that information during an interview. Then I was even more surprised when I learned this practice has gone on in a sheriff’s department in my own state for several years.

The reason why I say I personally disagree is mainly due to the obvious abuse of power in the situation. Especially during a job interview, the interviewee is clearly at a disadvantage, some even more so than others depending on how badly they need the job. Sure, people have said if you want the job badly enough, you’ll do it, but is it ethical to put someone in that sort of uncomfortable position? Invading another person’s social media site is a major invasion of privacy and personally, I’m not sure an organization that works that way is the kind I want to be affiliated with. If the working environment is uncomfortable, I think it would be fair to say that the top talent at the organization will be looking to move on.

Some, however, claim this practice is working in their favor. The sheriff’s office that requires their applicants to sign into their social media sites explained they’re looking for “inappropriate pictures and illegal behavior.” While I understand the illegal behavior part, something bothers me about the inappropriate pictures. While many people could agree on what would constitute as “inappropriate,” some may have a completely different idea. It’s for this reason defining “obscene” is so difficult. This is where I begin to disagree on a legal basis. My point is, there needs to be laws in place to protect not only the employee in the situation, but the employer as well, in the case a discrimination lawsuit arises.

There are a number of topics that cannot be touched on during a job interview according to federal, state, and local laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers cannot require pre-employment medical exams nor can they inquire about disabilities except in very rare cases. Other laws make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and pregnancy. Hairstyle, tattoos, and body piercings have also been an issue in discrimination lawsuits.

Now, with all those protection laws in place, checking an applicant’s Facebook page would open up a number of legality issues. For example, many of those qualities in applicants, such as race, color, sex, etc., can be easily found out during an interview. However, others can not. If it’s illegal to ask whether someone is married, why is it okay to check it on their Facebook? What if your applicant is 100% professional at work, but an interviewer views a picture of him/her displaying tattoos and piercings and deems it to be “inappropriate”? Others may want to keep their personal life, e.g. religion, sexual preference, private from their co-workers due to possible judgement or prejudice. Should we force them to share information that has no effect on their professional ability?

As I mentioned before, I understand why some employers might feel asking employees to log on to their sites is a way to ensure the person will positively represent their organization. I just feel that by requiring that information, they’re actually doing the opposite and as a result, turn off a lot of top performing employees. If you also add in the risk of possible discrimination lawsuits, I’m not convinced this is a beneficial practice for employers to follow.

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