Should Your Employer Decide What You Share?

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Should Your Employer Decide What You Share?

May 06, 2014

Michelle Gerrard, Pepperdine student

Michelle Gerrard, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Fall 2013 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: "When you are 20 years old you attend a party where alcohol is served. You do not drink any alcohol but are photographed holding a red plastic cup filled with diet coke. A friend takes your picture and posts it on his Facebook page. The following summer you are applying for a job and your future employer asks to see your Facebook page. Should you be required to give them access? What should you do?"

If my future employee asked to see my Facebook page I would deny this request. This employer could search for me on Facebook, but if my profile was on private they will not be able to see the information on my page. I do not believe I should be required to grant this company access to my private account. I would tell the company to request me on Facebook, I would then go home, and delete any pictures like the red cup picture or inappropriate posts and allow the company to be my friend and see mu profile once I knew there was nothing they could use against me.

I do not believe that a company can request to see a potential employees private profile during the interview process because they would be requesting to see information that they could use against the person in the interview. They would also be looking for information about the possible employee that is not required for them to know. They would be using unjust information to make a decision whether or not I should get the job. Depending on what I have chosen to display on my Facebook page I could have posts about my religious and political beliefs or even about culture. I could claim the employer used this information against me if I did not get the job and this would be considered discrimination.

I would worry that denying the employer access to my Facebook page would immediately end the interview and I would no longer be a candidate for the position, so I would need to justify my reasoning for denying their request. I could express my need to keep my Facebook strictly for friends and my personal life and that I hope they can get the validation of my capabilities and qualifications they need through the contacts I have listed on my resume and the results they find by doing a background check on me. If a potential employee is willing to do a drug test and their background test is clear, there is no information on an individuals Facebook page that an employer would need to see. They would just be asking for access for their own curiosity, which you should not be required to provide to them.

Michelle Gerrard is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Public Relations.

Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.

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