Legal Professionals Section
April 2014 Issue
Content is updated daily

Asking For Social Media Passwords From New Hires Carries Risk

While law firm personnel often review the Facebook pages of job applicants, some have taken the risky step of asking the applicant for their social media passwords. That request could be seen as a breach of privacy and trigger a discrimination lawsuit, warns Philadelphia employee attorney Christopher Ezold.

Law firms sometimes want to check if a social media page reveals any conflicts of interest the applicant might have with the firm’s interests, or if a social media page shows clues that a person is irresponsible. However, asking for passwords to an account may grant an employer access to information that’s against the law to ask about.

“The problem is that even if you glean good information out of the ‘spin’ of a social media account, you will also likely elicit a lot of unnecessary information that puts you at risk,” Ezold said. “Even a quick glance at a Facebook page will let you know information about the subject that is, in fact, illegal to ask, such as religious beliefs and marital or citizenship status.”

Several states are considering or have passed laws prohibiting employers from accessing social media accounts, Ezold said.

“Right now, there is nothing that can truly protect the employer from backlash on the Facebook topic, so it’s better to hold off on a password request,” he said. “Furthermore, it is likely to damage your ability to recruit quality talent to your company, as prospective employees will find your request aggressive and rude. There is no surer way to let a prospect know you don’t trust them and will micromanage them than a Facebook password demand.”

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