More and more California employers are asking job applicants to provide their Facebook passwords as part of the hiring process. The rationale is to ensure prospective employees do not have a history of dangerous conduct or affiliations, such as gang affiliations. But is such a practice legal? While there are no laws that specifically prohibit an employer from requesting an applicant’s social media log-in information, some legal experts say that the practice violates existing employment discrimination laws.

Under both California and federal law, it is illegal to base hiring decisions on an applicant’s protected class status. Accordingly, during the hiring process, employers must avoid making inquiries about things like an applicant’s age, sexual orientation, marital status, and ethnicity. This information could reveal an applicant’s protected class status and lead to claims of discrimination. Yet, this is precisely the kind of information that an employer could find on an applicant’s Facebook profile.

Facebook takes the position that providing a password to an employer constitutes an invasion of the user’s privacy as well as the privacy of the user’s friends. In fact, it is against the site’s terms of service for users to provide their passwords to anyone else or to let others access their accounts. Facebook maintains this rule to preserve the security of individual user accounts.

So, what can you do if a prospective employer asks you to provide your Facebook password as part of the application process? One option is to refuse on the grounds that Facebook’s rules do not allow it. However, chances are you will not get the job. Another option is to comply with the request and see what happens. If you believe you were denied employment or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of your protected class status, consultation with a California workplace discrimination attorney would be the next logical step.

Source: OpposingViews.com, “Can an Employer Ask for a Facebook Password?,” Ashley Poland