Employees: Prepare for Employer’s Facebook Snooping

Posted August 5, 2011 in Labor and Employment by Arthur Buono

How much private information can an employer or prospective employer demand to know about you? On our forums, a participant asks if an employee must give his Facebook account password to his employer on demand. The answer is yes, if he wants to keep his job.

  • Private employers not prohibited from probing your social networks
  • Employers generally not prohibited from acting on what they find
  • Employers may not illegally discriminate or retaliate using this information
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Your Professional Life Is Hostage to Your Private Life


The thread contains some pretty good practical advice. There’s a privacy myth floating around out there. It says your private and professional lives are strictly (or at least mostly) separate. Straight up, that’s never been the case. It only seemed that way back in the day when you clocked in at 9, clocked out at 5, and there was basically no easy way for your employer to keep tabs on you or learn of your afterhours comings and goings.

Employers though are interested in employees of good character. They feel, with some justification, that a "good" person will be a better employee. More often than not if they see something they don’t like they will shoot first and then not ask any questions but instead hire someone in your place and start over. Especially in this economy.

So employers can check you out. But employers may be prohibited from firing or refusing to hire you for what they find out. Let’s say you announce you’re pregnant on Facebook and the next day a company withdraws its job offer. Or you complain about your supervisor or working conditions on Facebook, and are fired. There are many statuses and activities protected by federal and state laws. If you think you’ve suffered employment discrimination because of one of these, check it out with a lawyer.

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