Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch: “Please Fill Out This Application: Give us References and Your Facebook Username & Password”

With social media exploding in popularity more and more employers are looking at prospective employee’s Facebook pages. But, how far can they and should they go?

Lisa J. Stamatelos (pictured) is an adjunct professor of human resources management at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business.  The following is from her “Workplace – Wild and Wonderful” column which appears in the Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch. 

Face it, your employer or potential employer may want to check out your Facebook page.

This past week I heard on the news that some employers are not only looking at what they are able to see on a person’s Facebook page, but are outright asking individuals to logon to their Facebook account so they can look at it. Whoa, can they do that? The fact is, right now, they can. Is it violating federal law? TechCrunch reported that this past Wednesday the House of Representatives voted down a proposed amendment to FCC legislation that would have prevented current or potential employers from seeking access to employee Facebook accounts. It is possible that new legislation addressing this issue will be introduced.  Further, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Chuck Schumer (NY) are planning to introduce an equivalent bill in the Senate. In the meantime, what should you do if it happens to you now? 

I put the question to the students in my Human Resources class at Pace University in Pleasantville. As I looked out at the class I saw shock on most of their faces. Some insisted that an employer can’t do that. One young lady felt that asking for the information was akin to asking for the key to her diary  Another student said he would refuse and would not care if he did not get the job. I then asked, “What if you really need and/or want the job?” Would you give in? I saw the wheels turning. Don’t you just hate it when your professor asks you to think? Some changed their minds and indicated that they would comply. Others stood their ground.           

Even if an employer does not ask you outright to look at your Facebook page they can still peruse what is available to them. Obviously, the first thing to do is to make sure you do not have anything on any of your social media accounts that you do not want an employer to see. Next, use the privacy settings only allowing those you want to give permission to view your page. Keep in mind, there are “go arounds.” For example, I have heard that some companies will make up fictitious names and attempt to “friend” an applicant. I have also been told that if your page is blocked an employer might try to view one of your friends’ pages and gain access to information about you that way.      

Personally, I see demanding this information as an invasion of privacy. I would not ask this of an applicant. However, I would investigate if something alarming was brought to my attention. Pay attention to what you are posting. As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues used to say, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

About this column: Lisa J. Stamatelos is the President of LJS HR Services. Stamatelos is a Human Resources Professional with over 20 years of management experience working with rapidly growing and changing companies. Her expertise includes employment law, recruiting, employee and labor relations as well as training and development. Stamatelos received her Bachelor of Business Administration (summa cum laude) and Master of Business Administration from Pace University. You can reach her at lisa@ljshrservices.com and visit her website, www.ljshrservices.com twitter.com/HRAficionada