Employers Denied Access to Social Media

There is a new law that will make it illegal for employers to “request” employees as a friend on Facebook or connect with them through social media.

Act 1480, which will take effect on April 15, will make it illegal for employers to request social media information due to an invasion of privacy.

Dr. Andrew Stoner, assistant professor in the Division of Communication, supports this idea.

“I find the request by an employer or potential employer to view the personal Facebook page of any individual to be an invasion of their privacy,” Stoner said. “While I understand employers seek to know a great deal of information about the people they hire, particularly so in sensitive positions of trust, there should be limits.”

Stoner personally tries to draw a line between personal and professional connections on Facebook.

“I think it basically grows out of the fact that I view Facebook as a personal and hobby-like activity,” Stoner said.

He said LinkedIn is a good contrast, being a professional networking site as opposed to social networking.

“My policy, for example, is to not ‘friend’ current students. I will do so once they are graduated or beyond my classes,” Stoner said. “I know other instructors, however, who have a different viewpoint on this.”

Some think that Act 1480 obstructs the ability to run a complete background checks.

Stoner believes that there are many ways an employer can find out what they need to know about an employee or potential employee.

“Employers are well-equipped to purchase information about candidates credit histories, and police or criminal background checks and drug testing are a rather standard practice now,” Stoner said. “Does the realm of this background check really need to grow? I am not sure what is driving that need, if it in fact exists.”

While employers cannot request social media information from their employees, Stoner still believes that posting work-related statuses should be avoided if possible.

“I think each person, however, has to be responsible for what they post. If they trash their bosses or their employer on a regular basis, or even worse, give away proprietary or confidential information, they should not be surprised to find themselves unemployed,” Stoner said.

The law still allows employees to connect with their employers or co-workers, but when reversed, it becomes against the law.

“This month Oregon joined 11 other states that ban employers from asking for Facebook usernames and passwords,” Stoner said. “Not sure if this will catch on, but I suspect in states that are ‘at will’ or don’t have long histories involving collective bargaining, this type of legislation won’t fly so well.”

Rachel Pukall


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