Social Media is everywhere and for a large percentage of the population, especially the millennial’s, it has become a part of daily life.  Whether it be status updates, tweets, hash tagging, photos or even an update to your resume on LinkedIn people are sharing all aspects of their lives.  So what happens when you are searching and interviewing for a new position.   As such social media laws and regulations are on the rise and for good reason.  Have you ever wonder, can your potential new employer review your social media posts or require that you give them access to your various social media sites?  The answer is a messy yes and no.  It gets even more complicated when you take into account the various social media platforms available and what potential employers may consider damaging or unappealing behavior.

California Social Media Laws and Regulations

As addressed by various social media laws and regulations, an employer in not limited in their ability to access and review public information.  In fact, there are several new up and coming background screening companies advertising their ability to gather, digest and review an applicant’s social media presence.   And while an employer is not limited in any way from reviewing an applicant’s public information, they are however, prohibited from requesting access to your private and/or password protected information.   California’s Social Media Privacy Act Social media laws and regulations are on the rise and several states, including California, have passed such laws.  The various laws being adopted prohibit potential employers from requiring an applicant or employee to grant them access to aspects of their personal social media sites or mandating that an employee accept their friend requests.  California Labor Code Section 980 prohibits an employer from requesting that an employee or applicant provide their social media identities, screen-names, or passwords, further, it prohibits an employer form requiring an applicant or employee to access their social media profiles in the presence of an employer.

Social Media and Employment Law Issues for Employers

The ever expanding ability to review the previously hidden aspects of potential employees lives grant an employer insight which can work both in their favor and to their detriment.    While the employer may review the postings, tweets and bios of potential employees they may not use information regarding race, gender, religion or various other protected classes in determining whether the applicant should be hired or not.   In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a staff letter reporting the compliance obligations of employees in connection with social media websites.  The FTC indicated that the same standards apply to social media review as to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Social media background screening is a slippery slope for employers, as people who have viewed the data might subconsciously allow information contained within the protected classes to involuntary weigh in on the opinion of a potential applicant. With that said, it remains a valuable research tool and more and more companies are willing to take the risks associated with social media background screening.

While new social media laws in California and on a federal level limit what an employer can and cannot review or use in the background screening process, it is important to explore the various avenues that an employer may look to when considering a potential employees social media presence.  Your immediate thoughts may go to the raucous frat party picture or the ranting blog post about your ex, but it turns out it can be smaller items that catch an employer’s attention.  Companies are reviewing online bios and comparing them to resumes and looking for disparaging remarks about former employers.

Having explored the various avenues of social media and the associated employment law issues therein it is important to remember those when posting, tagging and tweeting.  So while you are afforded some protection from disclosing your passwords or private social media postings it is imperative that you keep in mind the aspects that a potential employer can view.  Be smart with your postings and use the available privacy settings wisely, you wouldn’t want to miss out on a new employment opportunity because you didn’t put some thought into a random photo, update or tweet.

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