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Published March 20, 2012, 10:17 PM

Some employers asking for employees' Facebook passwords

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Social media is a big part of our lives and now it’s threatening your chances of getting hired. Some employers are looking at employees' personal Facebook pages. Others are digging deeper and asking for user names and passwords.

Social media is a big part of our lives and now it’s threatening your chances of getting hired. Some employers are looking at employees' personal Facebook pages. Others are digging deeper and asking for user names and passwords.

There's no law stopping employers from asking for this information, but there could be ramifications if that employer finds out certain details about the job seeker's life and background. With information like race, gender, and religion provided on personal pages, they could find themselves battling a lawsuit if any of the information is used in the hiring process.

Lisa Edison-Smith, a Labor and Employment Law Specialist at the Vogel Law Firm says employers may think they are doing themselves good by gaining access to an employee’s personal account, but in reality they are putting themselves in danger.

Lisa Edison-Smith – Labor and Employment Law: “Even if the employer can get lawfully get access to it, do they really want that because if you can get access to that applicant or employees personal social media account, you may find out things that you can lawfully know as an employer.”

Edison-Smith says it is once these employers are in the account is when it becomes tricky.

Lisa Edison-Smith: “North Dakota human rights act prohibits employers from discriminating on a lot of basis, race, sex, religion, and you might find out a person’s religion from their private social media posting.”

Although it is lawful to ask for personal passwords and log in information, it is never lawful to secretly gain access. Edison-Smith advises employers to always disclose that they are looking at an account.

Lisa Edison-Smith: “An employer should notify any applicants or employees if they are going to monitor social media and they should only monitor private password protected information with the authorization of that applicant or employee.”

For college students soon to be in the job market, no one we talked to says it's ever going to be ok for their employer to do this type of snooping.

Chelsea Caron – NDSU Employee: “I would not feel comfortable, I would think before I went into the interview I would definitely make sure there weren't any pictures or anything that you know my employer wouldn't approve of, but I definitely would not give them my password, it is just an invasion of privacy.”

Alex Cole – NDSU Freshman: “If they like us in person and they think we are qualified then we should get the job without having to look at our Facebook.”

David Lorbiecke – NDSU Senior: “That is completely crossing the line, just giving out any sort of personal information that is like giving out a password to a safe.”

Edison-Smith says the issue is still undefined legally, and only Illinois and Maryland have passed legislation prohibiting employers from obtaining the information. It is a reminder you should always watch what you're putting on the internet, because once it's there there's no stopping who sees it.

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