Let’s all agree, at the outset, that getting people re-employed — particularly those who have been unemployed for a while — is a worthy goal.

How do you get there?  Job training? Education?

The Connecticut General Assembly is taking a different tactic — just make it illegal for employers to discriminate against those who are unemployed. A bill on that very point passed the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon by a 81-55 vote.

But the CBIA has pointed out that the House Bill 5274 has numerous problems with it that could open employers up to frivolous claims, as the CBIA highlighted in a post on Friday:

…HB 5274 could open the door to countless, meritless and costly civil claims against businesses by unemployed individuals who believe, with or without any evidence, the reason they were not hired is because they are currently unemployed.

HB 5274 prohibits discrimination against unemployed people in job postings. However, it also allows those individuals to bring a claim against a business that doesn’t hire them if the candidates believe their jobless status was the reason they weren’t hired.

Unlike any type of legal claim, under HB 5274, an unemployed individual’s ability to guess the motivations and thoughts of another individual can now be the basis for civil claims.

A state legislator posed the issue a different way during the debate:

“Under this bill, someone could send out 100 resumes, [have] zero employment history, not get a job and then file 100 complaints with the labor commissioner,” said Rep. John Shaban, R-Redding. “Is that what we’re really pushing for?”

Employers who want to review the bill for themselves can review the bill status here, the text of the bill here (along with a passed amendment), and the bill analysis here.

The bill now moves on to state Senate.  Governor Malloy has indicated his strong support for such a measure.

Connecticut would appear to be the first state to advance such protections — though New Jersey, Oregon and District of Columbia have some type of laws that bar employers from stating in advertisements that they will only hire currently employed individuals.  New York City, however, has adopted full “protected category” status to being unemployed.

The General Assembly is not yet done for the season. For employers interested in the issue, be sure to contact your state Senator to express your views.

I told you so.

It’s not very often you can say that. It is rarer still to have documented proof.  But back in 2008 — when nobody was focused on Facebook and there were fewer of you reading this — I said this about using Facebook to screen employees:

Overall, employers should tread very carefully in using social networking sites as a screening device. There are very little substantive advantages to using such sites and there are several landmines employers need to avoid. While they may satisfy an employer’s curiosity, the time-worn principles of checking references, conducting interviews and, if necessary, background screening, should typically satisfy most employer’s need to hire the best candidate.

So, imagine my surprise the last few days when the topic of employers asking applicants for Facebook passwords has suddenly made front page news.  (Indeed, the topic of whether passwords are even protected by the Constitution is now making the rounds as well.)

I couldn’t help but say to myself, “NOW you’re interested in this?” 

The kerfluffle has been fostered in part by one of Connecticut’s senators, Richard Blumenthal, who wants to introduce legislation to make that practice illegal.  Facebook has responded by saying that it will take action against those employers who engage in such a practice.

I’ll make it easy on both of them.  If you’re an employer, it’s probably not the best business practice to ask for the passwords of your applicants.  In other words, find another way. 

Why? Jon Hyman on his blog cited several legal reasons but then said it best this morning:

Legal issues aside, this story raises another, more fundamental, question—what type of employer do you want to be? Do you want to be viewed as Big Brother? Do you want a paranoid workforce? Do you want your employees to feel invaded and victimized as soon as they walk in the door, with no sense of personal space or privacy? Or, do you value transparency? Do you want HR practices that engender honesty, and openness, and that recognize that employees are entitled to a life outside of work?

Social media provides a lot of benefits to employers. It opens channels of communication between employees in and out of the workplace. And, when used smartly, it enables employers to learn more about potential employees than ever before. You can learn if an employee has good communication skills, is a good cultural fit, or trashed a former employer. But, this tool has to be used smartly to avoid legal risks. Requiring passwords is not smart.

Enough said.

UPDATED 5.16.11

We’re just one week away from our seminar on employment law. It’s essentially sold out but we’re still taking names for a waiting list. Those signing up will get first priority when we re-run this program in the fall. 

We’re also less than two weeks away from the re-launch of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.  If there’s something that you’d like to see in version 2.0, drop a comment.  Late next week, the blog will be going into "freeze" mode for a few days as the blog switches over. Stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime, here are a few items that you might have missed over the last week:

Update: A prior version of this post suggested that Hartford might continue to use credit reports in the hiring process based on a HBJ report. It appears that the ban is on the use of those credit scores entirely.