It’s been barely four days since I wrote about the developing trend of state legislatures proposing new laws that would prohibit employers in those states from demanding social media passwords from job applicants. My take away on Monday was: “I predict that more states – and perhaps Congress on the federal level – will continue the trend disfavoring any demand for passwords during the hiring process.” I’m not going to Vegas any time soon on my hunches, but it appears that this growing snowball has now rolled down Capitol Hill in Washington.
The press that this issue has garnered in the papers and online has reached the desk of United States Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat from Connecticut), who announced yesterday that he is now penning federal legislation that would bar employers from asking for social media passwords. As quoted by Michelle Maltais in the L.A. Times, Senator Blumenthal stated that “[t]hese practices seem to be spreading, which is why federal law ought to address them. . . . They go beyond the borders of individual states and call for a national solution.”
I am not sure that Facebook passwords should necessarily trump out-of-control gas prices or the burgeoning crises in Afghanistan and in our own inner-city backyards, but our federal politicians do react (and swiftly) to the winds blowing in the moment. And at this moment, privacy advocates and the general population with profiles are demanding action to prevent employers from viewing content that those with profiles do have control over in terms of the positive and negative postings they include.
Employer Take Away: What should you as an employer take away from this development?
Keep watching and listening. The government’s presence in your company’s hiring practices will continue to be felt. So keep your eyes and ears open for all things legislative, administrative, and judicial that will affect what you can and can’t do as it relates to the use of social media for employment decisions. We will, of course, continue to update you on this issue.