Q. I am thinking about hiring someone, but would first like to check his Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to gain a more complete picture of the candidate. May I ask the applicant for log-in and password access to his accounts?
A. It depends. Some states have specific laws prohibiting employers from asking for access to applicants’ social media accounts. Texas does not.
As of mid-February 2014, 12 states have banned the practice, and legislation has been introduced in at least 25 other states that would prohibit such inquiries.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking these legislative initiatives.
Legislation on this issue was introduced in Texas in 2013.
The proposed law, H.B. 318, would have prohibited employers from requiring or requesting access to personal social media accounts of employees and job applicants through electronic communication devices. However, the legislation never passed.
Employers in law enforcement, education, national security, finance or other public safety fields may want to request such access.
Other employers should give serious thought before making such a request.
Privacy advocates defend the rights of applicants to decline permission on the grounds that the request is an invasion of privacy that could also violate the rights of third parties connected online to the applicants.
The nature of social media tends to encourage informality, irreverence and sarcasm. Making judgments based on social media interactions may unnecessarily disqualify many worthy applicants.