Employers Seek Solution to Employee Social Media Dilemma

Brandie Broihier | @brandienic Less than a week ago, Facebook released a response to news of employers asking job candidates and current employees for their Facebook password, with a firm "No".

We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.  But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating.  For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person.

Facebook's response is an in-depth look at their privacy policy, which states it is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password. Initially, Facebook stated they would sue employers who ask employees to hand over their password. They have backed away from that statement now, but the idea remains and that is enough for most companies to back off.

social media screening

In addition to the looming threat of being sued by Facebook, lawmakers have sprung into action over the conflict. In an Associated Press report, the policy is questioned as it may violate federal employment law for an employer to even view a job candidate's Facebook profile.

Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile — all details that are protected by federal employment law.

Social media is a playground for the masses, a solid base for companies to connect with customers, and can be a headache to human resources professionals. HR must balance the reputation of their company with the privacy of its employees, and social media platforms certainly play a part in the lives of employees.

employers screen social media

The problem lies in maintaining this delicate balance. How can a company protect its reputation and monitor online reputation without including social media? And how do they know who they are hiring without checking out the social media of a prospective employee?

The answer: a new idea in background checks is on the rise. Employers already use external services to check the criminal history of job candidates and are now seeking similar services to inspect the social media use of applicants. Human Resources can protect company image without putting themselves at risk of violating federal employment policies. Our recent blog details what employers are looking for when screening the social media of applicants.

In the meantime . . .

If you are asked for your Facebook password by an employer, there are a few appropriate ways to decline without completely jeopardizing your chances of landing the job. While some would tell the hiring manager or HR department that they do not wish to work for such a company, others may wish to work around the request. Kevin Mullett has compiled a list of creative ways to navigate the issue.




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