In recent weeks, several U.S. job candidates reported that prospective employers had requested their Facebook passwords in order to secure personal details about them. Shortly thereafter, there was an outpouring of candidates relaying anecdotes to the media of employers asking them to log onto their social networks on computers at the job site or hiring managers requesting to become “friends” on Facebook during the interview process.
Employer attempts to secure personal information about job candidates from social networking sites is certainly much less common north of the border. Nonetheless, the Toronto Star reported that a candidate for a law enforcement position in the Toronto area was asked at an interview to provide his Facebook login and password information. As a result of this report, the Ontario Human Rights Commission weighed in on the issue of whether this hiring practice is permissible.
In short, according to the Commission, the answer is “no”. The reason: doing so may violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code. The Commission’s post on its own Facebook page stated, in part:
A Facebook profile could include direct and indirect information on any or all of the 15 prohibited grounds: race, colour, ancestry, creed (religion), place of origin, ethnic origin, citizenship, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity), sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability and receipt of public assistance. This information could be available as text or inferred from pictures.
… (E)mployers should not ask job applicants for access to information stored on social media or other online sites and that doing so could leave an employer open to a claim of discrimination under the Code.
The Commission also counselled job applicants to use discretion when posting information online in a publicly available forum. If the employer is able to locate information online without having to request access to the information from the candidate, such information could be used for a discriminatory purpose.
Although a person’s social media presence could reflect upon his or her character, it could also reveal information – such as family status or religious affiliation – that an employer would not otherwise have, and that could lead to discrimination allegations against the prospective employer.