Friday, March 23, 2012

Employers Could Face Invasion of Privacy Lawsuits If Requesting Facebook Passwords

We are all aware that is a common practice for employers to conduct background checks on their employees and prospective employees. It is justifiable for a business to perform a criminal background check on a prospective employee whom they are considering hiring for a fiduciary position, or when the employee may work with the elderly or children. As a matter of fact, some federal and state laws require that an employer perform a background check prior to hiring an applicant. But, just how far should employers go when they are seeking to hire new employees or are considering promoting an existing employee? Apparently, some companies around the country believe that they should have access to a job applicant’s private social networking profile in order to determine whether or not to hire a candidate.

While it is common knowledge that employers often review a person’s public social networking profile, such as Linked In, to ensure that a candidate’s qualifications support what an applicant has stated in an interview or may have penned in a resume or job application, or what the candidate has made publicly available. However, it seems that employers are going a step further in their examination and requesting that potential employees provide them with their private social media log-in information and passwords. However, companies who are engaging in this practice of asking for log-in information should be aware that there they are treading upon a very dangerous trajectory and that there are important legal consequences from this type of action.

First, any Florida employer who requests a Facebook, Linked In, or other social media passwords from an application could subject themselves to a Florida invasion of privacy lawsuit. Once an employer is allowed to log-in to a user’s account, he or she will have access to information about the “friends” of the candidate and their privacy. When users have set their personal profile as private it only seems obvious that the information in which they post is only intended to reach those whom they have befriended on the social media sites such as Facebook. Therefore, providing log-in information to an employer exposes another person’s privacy to people who are not intended to receive the information. On Friday, Facebook representatives issued a public statement saying that it will protect its user’s privacy even if it meant going to court.

Secondly, our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys are concerned about other information that could be possibly used to discriminate against an employee, such as age. By law, employers are prohibited from asking a job applicant about his or her age, including on a job application. In general, the law states that an employer can only asks questions which are job-related and should not be asking applicants questions about sexual preferences, disabilities, race, ethnicities, marital status, or religion. Therefore, an employer should not be allowed access to this private information through a candidate’s private social networking profile.

In short, if an employer asks for your log-in information and passwords of a social networking site such as Facebook and Linked In, you should not provide this information to them. If you provide them with this information, you could be compromising your legal rights of privacy. In addition, if you have been asked by a prospective employer for this information, you should consult with our Fort Lauderdale employment attorneys who can advise you of what legal alternatives could be available to you.  
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