Submitted for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Living History

Assignment:  Your challenge this week? Write about a current event from your own unique, subjective perspective.  Show us how history is something we are part of, not some external event taking place in a palace, office, or war zone far away.

Picture the following scenario.  You just graduated college and paying those loans is looming in the near future.  You are in luck because you have five interviews lined up for positions in your field of study and from your research any one of these companies sound like a place for you, a place for a career.  You are well prepared, dressed professionally and had done very well at the mock interviewing seminars provided by the university.  You arrive on time for the interviews and all is going well until the employer asks you to provide your Facebook and Twitter IDs and passwords.  You question why and the employer says, “The firm feels that it can tell a lot about prospective candidates by their social media activity and we require you to provide access in order to be considered for the position.  We want to attract the right sort of professionals for our company.”  You are shell shocked because after all you are twenty years old and just out of college.  Social media has been your life for many years now and these employers will see a lot you don’t want them to see.

If you are in New Jersey and seeking employment here, breath easier.  On September 1, 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that will ban New Jersey companies from forcing workers to hand over user names or passwords to their social media accounts.  Under the legislation (A2878), companies will be fined $1,000 if they request or demand access to workers’ or potential employees’ accounts on websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.  Workers also get the option to sue for money lost if they are not hired or lose their jobs or promotions because of an employer’s prying. Companies that violate the law a second time face a $2,500 fine. Law enforcement agencies are exempt.  The law takes effect on January 1, 2014.   There are similar bills in other states.

I say two thumbs up to New Jersey for banning this practice.  Owners of social media accounts jump through hoops trying to navigate the privacy settings of the various sites so without the ban, we could have to lay it all out to our employer or prospective employer.  It is an extreme invasion of privacy.  Some may read this and think who cares.  If you don’t want people to see those embarrassing photographs, don’t post them.  If you don’t want someone reading something controversial that you posted, don’t post it.  That is where they would be wrong.  It isn’t just those types of postings that could effect employment.

Picture this scenario.  Your a professional women with an advanced degree and you are seeking a position as an associate in a prestigious law firm.  You hand over your social media accounts and in the reviewing of the various candidates for the position, the employer notes that you seem to have a lot of photographs on your Facebook of your three young children.  Maybe the employer selects a different candidate because he wonders if you will be out of work often due to illnesses of your children.  By looking at her Facebook account, this employer gained answers to questions he could not ask due to federal laws prohibiting job discrimination which are:

  • employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information; and
  • denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

Social media is a wonderful invention.  It provides so many outlets for expression.  Last fall when New Jersey experienced Superstorm Sandy, social media kept people connected and provided much needed information to the people of New Jersey and other areas affected by the disaster.  Thank you Governor Christie for doing what is right and signing the ban on employers snooping into our social media because without the ban, the benefits of social media would be lost.  Let’s hope all the other states follow your lead.

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