Friday, March 23, 2012

Facebook and Employer Access

The general counsel for Facebook has warned employers (and potential employers) not to ask for Facebook passwords because that inquiry constitutes an invasion of privacy. According to the general counsel, this inquiry opens up the employer to liability, though it is unclear how a liability is created. Facebook's chief privacy officer claims that such an inquiry could create a claim for unlawful discrimination if the employee or applicant is a member of a protected class of individuals. Again, I am not clear how unlawful discrimination occurs if the employer asked for all applicants for this information. Finally, Facebook is threatening employers with a lawsuit if they ask for the applicant's passwords but does not say what cause of action could apply.

This controversy arises out of the social media world where few laws clearly delineate the rules of the employment relationship. It should remind nonprofit employers that they should proceed with caution if they intend to monitor an employee's social media. If your nonprofit secures password, you should check with you attorney.

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