Can my employer ask for my social media passwords?

Question:

I'm applying for a job as a security guard in Fresno, California. The company I want to work for has asked for the passwords to any social media accounts I have, like my Facebook page. I don't want to give them my password. There's no need for a prospective employer to see photos of my kids, my wife, and the rest of my life outside work. I use the privacy settings to restrict access to my account to Facebook friends only. Can they require me to give them my password? If I don't, can they decide not to hire me because of it?

Answer:

These days, many employers research applicants online, including through social media sites. Some, like yours, go a step further by asking applicants to hand over their social media passwords and usernames, which would give them access to photos and posts that aren't available to the public.

The public outcry against this practice has been loud and clear. Facebook offered its support, declaring that the practice of requiring users to hand over their passwords violated its code of conduct. Congress debated the practice and considered legislation to outlaw it, although it has yet to pass a federal law prohibiting the practice. However, a number of states did pass laws prohibiting employers from requiring applicants to provide social media passwords.

Luckily for you, California is one of these states. California employers may not require applicants to hand over their social media usernames or passwords, nor may they require applicants to bring up their social media pages in the presence of the employer, such as during an interview.

Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against applicants who refuse to comply with these demands. Among other things, this means the company to which you are applying may not decide not to hire you because you won't hand over your Facebook password.

This California law has been on the books for only a couple of years, so it's possible the company hasn't gotten the memo. Try explaining to the recruiter or interviewer that you limit access to your Facebook page to only your friends and family and that California law gives you the right not to share your password or username with employers.

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