Under existing employment law, when an American applies of a job, he or she can go into an interview knowing certain questions won’t be asked. An employer can’t inquire about an applicant’s religious beliefs, for example. It also can’t ask about an applicant’s ethnicity, whether he or she has kids, or whether the person has any physical disabilities.
But the law gets a little trickier when it comes to social media.
The Associated Press caused quite a stir last week with a report on recent changes in hiring practices, with a growing number of employers asking applicants for their Facebook usernames and passwords – just so the employers can poke around.
Facebook executives began an effort on Friday to discourage the practice, even threatening legal action against employers who keep doing this. Soon after, some Democratic lawmakers took an interest in the controversy, too.
Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.
Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies. […]
Personal information such as gender, race, religion and age are often displayed on a Facebook profile – all details that are protected by federal employment law.
Schumer and Blumenthal believe areas of existing law – most notably the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – may already be applied to protect job applicants from these inquiries, but are also reportedly eyeing additional legislation to update the laws to protect modern social media.
If the recent fight over SOPA and PIPA were any indication, lawmakers won’t want to get on the wrong side of this one.