NEWS ANALYSIS: U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal say asking for social media passwords may be a violation of federal law. For job applicants and employers, this could open a potential legal minefield.
recent practice of employers and would-be employers requesting
Facebook and other social network log-in information is probably a violation of
equal employment laws
, say two Senators. U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the
practice of requiring job applicants and employees to provide their social
network log-in information as a condition of employment.
senators sent a letter to the EEOC regarding the practice. Schumer and
Blumenthal noted that some jobs require comprehensive background checks, but
that access to private information on social media sites could give those
employers information that they are not permitted to request under federal law,
such as race, religion, marital status or pregnancy status along with other
senators also wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Justice
Department to investigate whether the practice of requesting Facebook
credentials violates the Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. Â§ 2701
the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. Â§ 1030(a)(2)(C)
In their letter, Schumer and Blumenthal asked Holder to issue a legal opinion
as to whether requesting and using prospective employees social network
passwords violates federal law.
courts have found that when supervisors request employee log-in credentials,
and access otherwise private information with those credentials, that those
supervisors may be subject to civil liability under the SCA, the Senators said
in their letter. See Pietrylo vs. Hillstone Restaurant Group
2009 WL 3128420 (D.N.J. 2009); Konop vs. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.
302 F.3d 868 (9th Cir. 2002). Although these cases involved current employees,
the courts reasoning does not clearly distinguish between employees and
their letter to the EEOC, the senators point out that access to private
Facebook information allows prospective employers to see information theyre
not allowed to see under federal law.
allows employers to access private information, including personal
communications, religious views, national origin, family history, gender,
marital status and age, the Senators said in their EEOC letter. If employers
asked for some of this information directly, it would violate federal
anti-discrimination law. We are concerned that collecting this sensitive
information under the guise of a background check may simply be a pretext for