When you applied for jobs in the past, you might have expected Los Angeles employers to ask about your work experience and how you handled challenging situations in life. When asked these types of questions during interviews, job applicants have the opportunity to give professional examples of how they have used their skills and experiences to accomplish challenging tasks in the workplace, at school or in other settings. Job applicants are in complete control over the type of information they share with prospective employers, and they have every right to keep their personal lives private.
But as social media use has increased over the past few years, more job applicants have been asked to show potential employers their Facebook pages or activity on their Twitter accounts. Some California job applicants have reluctantly shared this information in order to get hired while others have refused. In both situations, folks have been denied jobs or discriminated against due to what employers found on social media accounts.
Until now, it has been unclear as to whether it is illegal for employers to ask for social media account passwords and whether it is illegal for employers to fire workers or deny applicants' jobs for refusing to disclose their passwords.
Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that will help clarify some of these growing concerns for employees and potential employees in the workplace. Effective January 1, 2013, employers in California will be prohibited from requiring job applicants to share their passwords for email accounts and social media accounts in an effort to gain access to one's information from any of these accounts. Folks have a right to keep some of their information on these accounts private. Of course, employers may still have access to information on Facebook and other social media accounts if one's privacy settings make some of their information public.
Although the new social media privacy law does not ban employers from asking to see an employee's or job applicant's social media accounts, folks should understand that they have the right to refuse these requests. If an employee or prospective employee does refuse such a request, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual who does not want to share his or her passwords to personal email accounts and social media accounts.
Source: ABC News, "New Calif. Law Bans Employers From Asking For Personal Passwords," Albert Sabate, Sept. 28, 2012
- Our firm provides counsel to those who have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against in the workplace. If you would like to learn more about employees' rights and our practice, please visit our Los Angeles / Long Beach employment law page.