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More employers now asking applicants for their Facebook passwords

Facebook and other social media sites continue to provide much fuel for controversy between employers and employees, as well as those seeking employment. Several of our previous posts have discussed employees who have faced retaliation or wrongful termination due to comments they made on Facebook which either disparaged the company or a supervisor.

Additionally, job applicants in Florida and across the country are discovering that employers are screening them by going online and viewing what is publicly available on Facebook.

Anything that looks questionable or potentially inappropriate on a social media site could prevent you from landing a job. Smart social media users have adapted to this behavior and have strengthened their privacy settings accordingly.

However, a growing number of companies are now subjecting job applicants to an uncomfortable and potentially illegal ultimatum: you must either give us direct access to your Facebook account or you will not be considered for this job.

That's right. Many companies (both private and public) are either asking applicants to log in to Facebook on a company computer, or to provide a username and password. In either case, a company representative then goes hunting for any potential evidence which could be deemed undesirable.

In a recent news article, a law professor correctly noted that this represents "an egregious privacy violation." He added that, "It's akin to requiring someone's house keys."

Employers who engage in this practice defend themselves by saying that applicants have the right to refuse. But in this difficult employment climate, "volunteering is coercion if you need a job," another law professor said.

Whether or not this is legal is still a gray area, and social media itself is still largely uncharted territory in employment law. Hopefully, there will soon be some landmark legal challenges that reaffirm the privacy rights of employees and job seekers.

Source: TimesHerald.com, "Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords," Manuel Valdes and Shannon McFarland, Mar. 20, 2012

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