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K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.

Why an employer should never ask about accessing your Facebook page

There's a brilliant piece of work posted as a fictitious resignation letter that gives some scenarios as to why an employer could be in hot water should it ask for access to Facebook. The letter is based on some Canadian laws.

 

Here in the United States, where I live, an FAQ page about job discrimination laws can be found here. Here is the short synopsis of laws that protect American citizens when it comes to the job (from the link):

 

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
  • the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
  • the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;
  • Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;
  • Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government;
  • Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee;
  • the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

 

On a given Facebook profile, you can typically see (which you might not be able to guess with an in person interview):

 

  • religion
  • national origin
  • age
  • disabilities

 

You're not supposed to ask questions about these characteristics for a potential candidate. In addition, some states also have laws for sexual orientation. These can all result in a discrimination lawsuit. Since pregnancy is supposed to be treated as a temporary illness and a post on Facebook could be seen revealing the pregnancy even before said pregnancy is physically visible, you have another possible area for a lawsuit. It's just not smart for an employer to open themselves up like this.

 

Still with me? Then I have two questions for you:

 

  • Why are you still willing to work for an employer who would invade your privacy in such a way?
  • Why are you still willing to work for an employer who would so easily jeopardize the company's future by insisting on this practice?

 

I understand that in some cases the job is needed badly and the breach of privacy is something that will just have to be accepted to put food on the table. But if that's not the case, why say yes to this level of intrusion into one's privacy?

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