Maybe thats too much information

June 25, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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People reveal much about themselves on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, including things a prospective employer would want to know. Some job applicants, in fact, have been asked to provide their Facebook account name and password so that a would-be employer can check it out.

Now, however, laws are being proposed to block that hiring tactic, and some attorneys don’t think it’s a wise move for employers to make in the first place.

“Sometimes, seeing all that is not in their best interest,” said Bob Sikkel, an experienced labor law attorney at Barnes & Thornburg in Grand Rapids.

Some details found on social media accounts pertain to things an employer is barred from asking about in a pre-employment interview and cannot use as a deciding factor in making employment decisions, said Sikkel. Right now, he added, the legality of an employer to ask for access to an applicant’s Facebook account “is, in my opinion, very much up in the air.”

In early June, the Social Network Account Privacy Act proposed in the Michigan House by State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, was approved by the House Energy and Technology Committee. The bill would ban employers from requesting an employee or job applicant to disclose user names, passwords or other information providing access to a social networking account.

In arguing for the law, Nesbitt said employers would never be allowed to inspect mail or photo albums at a person’s home.

In late May, the Ohio Senate began consideration of a bill that would make it an illegal discriminatory practice for an employer to ask for or require an applicant or current employee to provide user names and passwords for online social media accounts.

Maryland has already passed identical legislation. Similar laws are being discussed in California, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

In late April, the Social Networking Online Protection Act was introduced in Congress, which would prevent employers from requiring their employees and job applicants to provide usernames and passwords to their social media accounts.

The debate “shows how the employment laws and labor laws are now trying to address … this phenomenon of social media,” said Sikkel. He said it is already causing friction, “and I anticipate we are going to see this play out ultimately in the courts for the next several years.”

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