Social media – Facebook, Twitter and more – are a ubiquitous part of our lives, with more than 80% of all U.S. households currently using these applications. This fact has raised questions about whether employers have a right to review a potential hire’s social media accounts as part of background checks prior to hiring, and whether employers can demand or require a potential or current employee to provide user names and passwords for social media accounts so as to review their activities on those platforms.
On the first question – can employers use information on public online social media accounts as part of background checks… the answer is yes. Many employers currently do use public online profiles to obtain information on professional credentials, career objectives, maturity and judgment, abuse of drugs or alcohol, current employment status, and other red flags. However, it’s very important to remember that employers may NOT use personal information from such profiles such as age, race, disability, religion, national origin, or gender to discriminate when making a hiring decision.
What about demanding or requiring that an employee or job candidate handover user names and passwords to social media accounts?
While there are no federal laws prohibiting these actions – many states – including Connecticut have passed laws making that practice illegal. The recently enacted Connecticut law (SB 426 – An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy) states:
This bill “prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or job applicant to (1) provide the employer with a user name, password, or other way to access the employee’s or applicant’s personal online account (see below); (2) authenticate or access such an account in front of the employer; or (3) invite, or accept an invitation from, the employer to join a group affiliated with such an account.”
This new Connecticut bill does however allow “an employer, in compliance with state and federal law, to monitor, review, access, or block electronic data stored on an electronic communications device paid for in whole or in part by the employer or traveling through or stored on an employer’s network.”
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