This topic has gotten a lot of attention from the media lately as some employers have taken heat for implementing this practice. Employers ask for employee passwords in an effort to circumvent the person’s privacy settings and gain full access to what he’s posting online. Although the practice is technically not illegal if the candidate/employee gives her consent, there are risks involved.
What are the risks? For starters, sharing a Facebook password is a violation of their Terms of Service, and Facebook is vehemently opposed to the practice. By requesting an employee’s password, even though it’s not your account, you could still be in violation of Facebook’s terms and vulnerable to legal action. Secondly, there could be risks involved with violating Federal Equal Opportunity (EEO) Laws. For example, let’s say you requested access to a candidate’s Facebook account and found out they followed a certain religion. If you did not hire her, she could potentially sue you for discrimination. Thirdly, some states have proposed legislation to ban this practice, although a national bill was recently voted down in the house.
You don’t want employees airing their grievances about you or your customers online. Nor do you want to hire someone who could potentially tarnish your business’s reputation. However, there are other ways to address these concerns than won’t put you at legal risk. You can put a policy in your employee handbook that sets out the guidelines for using social media on company time, and for using social media to talk about the company or your customers. Preventative measures like this will go a long way in mitigating risk.
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