With the creation of social media sites a new revolution of applicant, employee and employer rights has evolved. 

Do employers have a right to screen applicants via their social networking sites?  Will it actually allow them to gauge the applicant better than a series of interviews one on one?  These are the questions that human resources professionals face at the mercy of applicants.


In 2010, Robert Collins applied for a job at the Illinois Department of Public Safety and Corruptions, during the interview it was requested that the names and the passwords to his social media accounts be provided.  Mr. Collins disturbed by the request contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and asked whether such a practice was the norm.  The ACLU contacted the department and stated that such a request was both, “frightening and an illegal invasion of privacy,” and in turn the department amended their practice to request that applicants log into their respective accounts during the interview. 

Dissatisfied with the departments response the ACLU then took their concerns to the legislature, lobbying to outlaw such a practice.  In 2012 Illinois, became the third state  in the United States to pass and implement a law that protects applicant’s privacy as it relates to their social media accounts.The Illinois state law “leaves no exceptions – even for opening that require thorough background checks.”  

In recent years many government agencies and corporations have requested to obtain social media passwords from their prospective employees as a process of vetting potential candidates.  Many argue that these password requests are an invasion of privacy for not only applicants but current employees as well. A consequence of these types of checks is the possibility of closing the employment pool further in an already challenging hiring environment and creating lower morale at the workplace for fear that “big brother” is watching them.  In lieu of these controversies many companies have found various ways to shift out of the perception of “invasion of privacy.”  Sears, Inc., for example is using third-party application called BeKnown to scour Facebook profiles.  Sears, Inc., allows applicants to apply for jobs via Sears’ Facebook account and in doing so the applicants are allowing the company to access their Facebook page and friend lists, many times without their knowledge.

Applicants and employees argue that this type of invasion can lead to a new era of discrimination due to the fact that prospective employers will gain knowledge of the applicants and current employees religious beliefs, political affiliations and sexual preference.  Many dispute that these types of checks are a violation of the National Relations Labor Act permitted by Section 7 and that lawsuits will eventually follow.  

Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the Social Networking Protection Act, which would prohibit employers from requiring jobs seekers or workers to provide passwords as a condition of employment.  Until then the shades of grey as it relates to social media and rights that employers, employee’s or applicants may or may not have is still unclear and will most likely be settled with court cases throughout the nation.

This article is important and should be included for future classes because this is the future challenge of human resources management.  Our society has shifted virtually and a clear consistent piece of legislation need to be enacted in order to deal with the question of “invasion of privacy.”  My belief is that both sides have a valid argument, personally I wouldn’t appreciate it if my employers could keep tabs on what I was doing, but on the flip side if someone was capable of harming themselves and others at the workplace the warning signs are typically on their social media sites.  Another issue is the creation of  third-party sites and their ability to manipulate individuals to divulge their Facebook pages without their knowledge.   In the coming years ther should be a clearier indication for human resources management professionals on the do’s and dont’s of social media. In the meantime hr professionals need to educate themselves on pending legislation and lawsuits as well as articles in order to educate themselves and their workforce.  

My next analysis will consist of an article published in the (Journal of Business & Psychology; Jun2011, Vol. 26 Issue 2, p219-225, 7p) “The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall: The Use of Social Networking Sites in Hiring Decisions.”

This academic article focuses on how social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter) has changed human resources practices and how it’s now being used for recruiting, hiring and terminating individuals.  It does caution the fact that social media is new and many companies don’t have policies in place to deal with any repercussions that may follow with this latest technology. It stresses that although using these tools to recruit, hire and terminate individuals may seem to be an inexpensive there could be costly legal ramifications in the future. 

Is posting jobs on social media outlets a good idea?  Some say yes, but human resources professionals need to be cautious when advertising/posting employment opportunities and ensure that no particular group is excluded (age, race, ethnicity) due to potential discriminatory lawsuits.  Another valid argument is the fact that a new trend is arising with jobs applicants suspending/deleting their social media sites temporarily in order to avoid any employment searches.  Another trend is that candidates are altering their social media sites to sound more attractive to their prospective employer by customizing their social media sites to cater to a certain position.

Another obstacle is whether or not someone should be terminated due to an inappropriate comment about their workplace via their social networking site.  Although most employees are at-will and termination can happen at any point should an employer terminate someone for stating that they had a bad day at work and they hate their job?  Should a human resources professional discuss the matter with the individual or should they automatically terminate in order to send the message to other employees?

One thing is for sure is that technology is moving at a rapid pace and trying to keep up with it is virtually impossible until procedures and guidelines are established.  Companies should have a social media guidelines in place to avoid situations with their current and future workforce. There should be training and development offered to educate the workforce of social media decorum.

This academic journal should be implemented into your coursework because it creates great arguments for your students to discuss.  The reality is that social media is here to stay and will only get more sophisticated as the years pass.  The unknown is here due to the possible legal ramifications of social media are still being examined by many organizations and governments alike. I would venture to say in the coming years that a class solely dedicated to social media in the workplace will occur.  This is a topic that all students should learn and should be taught at the university level in order for our future workforce to understand the implications of social media may or may not have on their future careers.

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