For many businesses trying to sort through applicants for an open position at their company, it has become routine to run a Google search of applicants to find out more about them. This can quickly lead to finding their Facebook or other social media account, but did you know that some employers have begun asking for applicants’ Facebook passwords during interviews to look at their activity? In Colorado, you could face serious legal liability for such actions.
Trying to find out as much as you can about an applicant or employee is understandable. For businesses both big and small, nobody wants to waste time, energy, and company resources bringing someone in for an interview that will not be a good fit, but a line must be drawn. Many workers feel their personal privacy is seriously invaded when employers go digging into their personal online accounts.
With these concerns in mind, several states have begun passing laws to combat this practice. In may of last year, Colorado passed C.R.S. § 8-2-127, a so-called “Facebook Law,” which restricts employers’ ability to get social media and other personal online account information from applicants or employees.
While running a Google search and pulling up any publicly available information about an applicant or employee is permissible under this law, employers cannot suggest, request, or require an applicant or employee to disclose means for accessing their personal accounts or services (this includes usernames and passwords). Under this law, you also cannot suggest, request, or require an applicant or employee to change their privacy settings (to make their accounts public for example) or to have them “add” the employer or someone acting on behalf of the employer to their friends list. If an employee or applicant refuses to comply with these kinds of actions from an employer, then it is unlawful to penalize or refuse to hire them because of their refusal.
There are a few exceptions to this law, but aside from allowing the employer to freely view publicly available information, they are pretty narrow. Other exceptions include investigations pertaining to compliance with financial laws and regulations and the unauthorized download of employer proprietary information to a personal web-based account or website.
If you would like to discuss this or other legal concerns related to your employees or the hiring process, be sure to reach out to the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis, 720-258-6647 or email her at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.