Sunday, March 25, 2012
Politicians with Their Knickers in a Wad
Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal have asked Eric Holder whether employers can ask employees for their social media passwords. As federal representatives their only real concern is whether the practice violates a federal law. However, state Senator Leland Yee wants to make it illegal for an employer to ask for social media passwords or ask for a printout of social media activities. Why the big deal? I can't imagine an employer spending time on social media sites unless there is a problem in the workplace. HR professionals are too busy for such activities. We are told it is because an employer might see a protected characteristic of an employee. Sure, that could happen. But by the time you see an employee once, you know most of their protected classes such as age, race, gender and ethnicity. The less obvious protected classes are medical condition, religion and sexual preferences. Avoiding a claim that a workplace decision was made based upon information about a protected class otherwise unknown is another reason an employer would not review social media sites. But there are plenty of reasons to look as well. This world is full of very strange people who do very strange things. They seem to relish in these behaviors so long as they are not publicly known. But if these activities or blogs or postings shed light on a person's character, competencies or judgment, why shouldn't an employer know about them? I doubt any of us will have an opportunity to debate these issues. In California's one party state, whatever an influential Democrat wants (s)he gets. Makes for bad laws! Let's see how long it will take California to enact a "progressive" law prohibiting employers from using relevant Internet information in making employment decisions.