There’s been little press over what is going on at the Connecticut General Assembly this spring. 

With no big employment law issue (other than minimum wage) dominating the headlines like Paid Sick Leave in the past, you might think that there isn’t much happening.

But as the Connecticut Business and Industry Association highlighted in a post late last week, there are a number of, what it termed, “anti-employer” bills that have already passed committee which, if approved, will make it “much harder and more costly for Connecticut employers to operate successfully in the state.”

Here are three things still to keep an eye on:

  • A parental leave bill that mandates employers provide up to eight hours of leave to attend a child’s qualified school activities is still being considered.   
  • Senate Bill 159 states that employers can’t ask or require employees or job candidates to disclose to the company their social media passwords. As I’ve noted before, however, the bill leaves employers vulnerable in the event the employee uses his or her own personal social media account to violate policy or share inappropriate information. 
  • A minimum wage increase is still up for debate too. 

On a positive note, some needed changes to the existing Paid Sick Leave law have also passed committee. These changes would clean up some of the issues that have been plaguing employers.   One of the changes would make calculating the number of employees an employer has more consistent with how CTFMLA is determined too. 

There’s still a little more than two months left to the session so there’s plenty of time to see how things all plays out.

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.