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Legal News for Massachusetts Employers: Job Applicants and Social Media Research

Is your company using social media to research job applicants? Massachusetts has introduced a law that limits how far you can go.As adoption of social networking sites has increased, so has the willingness of people to frequently document and share detailed aspects of their lives. But while the intention behind many social networking posts may be to update friends, family, and other close connections, the reality is that data has value to others as well.

For example, as an employer, social networking sites may provide another level of insight as you research job applicants. But just how far can you go to learn about applicants via social media?

Legal Limitations for Employers

Recently, a number of states have created laws that address the practice of employers asking to login to the social networking accounts of their applicants.

In Massachusetts, a related measure was recently introduced as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

The amendment would make it unlawful for employers to do the following:

  • a) Require, request, suggest, or cause an employee or applicant to disclose a user name, password or any other means for access, or provide access through a user name or password, to a personal social media account or service
  • b) Compel an employee or applicant, as a condition of employment or consideration for employment, to add anyone, including the employer or their agent, to the employee or applicant’s list of contacts associated with a personal social media account or service
  • c) Take or threaten any adverse action against an employee or applicant for refusing to disclose any information specified in clause (a) of this section or for refusing to add the employer to a list of contacts associated with a social media account or service, as specified in clause (b)

While it can certainly be valuable to review the online presence maintained by job applicants, it is critical that employers heed the laws being developed around this practice.


For suggestions on how your company can improve its employee recruiting and hiring efforts, please subscribe to the CBG Benefits newsletter.

Image courtesy of photoraidz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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