Social media password requests

In recent press there has been a lot of talk about applicants having potential employers ask for their passwords to view social media profiles such as Facebook.  Some employers view this as a reasonable request as they want proof of character and work ethic.  Applicants feel this is an invasion of privacy and that what they do on their own time has no reflection on their work performance. 

The State of Maryland has entered the debate and issued a very clear message by banning companies from this practice.  A bill has passed both houses and after being signed by Governor Martin O’Malley, should take effect on October 1, 2012.  Other states including California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Washington are evaluating their positions as well.

Although it is difficult to determine how frequent this practice is, it appears to be gaining in popularity and as a result can put an employer at risk.  According to a recent Fisher & Phillips, LLP article, the law firm cited a 2009 Microsoft survey in which they found that 75% of respondents, managerial level and higher, have been required to research candidates online before hiring.  We anticipate this number is higher now in 2012.  In our opinion, using information obtained from social media for pre-employment decisions or disciplinary actions can put the employer in a position to defend claims of discrimination or wrongful termination.  Therefore until more evidence is produced, we suggest following the guidance of Maryland and avoid using personal social media content for employment decisions.

For assistance in proper hiring techniques as well as employee relations, contact StaffScapes to learn how we can help your company reduce liability, increase productivity and help you free up extra hours in your week to focus on what you want to do.  Contact us today!  303-466-7864 or